Friday, May 29, 2009

Twitter parasites thriving while host struggles

Services that take advantage of the open infrastructure of microblogging site Twitter seem to be doing pretty well. Meanwhile Twitter itself is struggling to find a workable business model.
This situation reminds me of nature videos where parasites thrive around a larger species. Think fish that clean the scales, skin and teeth of larger marine animals. Or better yet, birds that pick the bugs off giraffes, hippos and other creatures. (OK, so those are really examples of mutualism or symbiosis. Sorry.)
But what if the host is starving? That’s the case with Twitter, which isn’t generating any revenue now and is having a hard time explaining how it will in the future.
My colleague Brian Deagon just wrote a package of stories for Investor’s Business Daily about the companies making money off Twitter’s back. See “Twitter Truly Making Money – For Some Application Developers,” which posted Thursday on Investors.com.
Those Twitter parasites (my term) include FeaturedUsers.com, StockTwits.com and View2Gether.
Meanwhile, Twitter’s co-founders, speaking at a tech conference in California this week, “gave no clear picture of Twitter’s business model” after an hour of questions by journalists and the audience. See AP story here.
MarketWatch columnist Therese Poletti noted that Twitter’s “‘build it and they will come’ mentality can be a recipe for a disaster, as evidenced by the many failures in the dot-com boom and bust of 2000-2001.”
She cited another Twitter parasite making money off the service. Content network Glam Media recently launched Tinker.com, a quick way to find the hottest topics on Twitter. Glam Media is selling ads related to widely discussed topics on Twitter.
And finally, in another “jump the shark” moment for Twitter, the San Francisco-based startup has teamed with Reveille Productions and Brillstein Entertainment Partners to develop an unscripted series based on the site, the AP reported.
I wonder if Ashton Kutcher will get his Twitter movie done first.

Photo of giraffe up close and cleaner birds from Noam Berg on Picasa.

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