Who is going to win the microblogging wars?

Microblogs: the world is listening, but who pays for the party?
Microblogs: the world is listening, but who pays for the party?

There are a whole bunch of microblogging websites out there. Twitter is the biggest and best known right now, but I have accounts on about twenty other similar sites, and I’m probably missing a bunch  –  even though I research this sort of thing daily.

I think its pretty obvious that microblogging isn’t going away any time soon. It has too much value for too many people.

The big question is how companies in this space can actually make money. There’s a huge looming issue that isn’t going to go away any time soon, and its pretty simple: I have an account on an “aggregator” website that allows me to post to all twenty of the microblog websites that I use with a single button click. I have a similar system set up for my blog.

So how often do you think I actually login to those websites?

See, the big problem is that the only way a microblog site can make money – as far as I can tell – is by posting up advertising. And the only way they’re going to make money off of advertising is if people actually come to their site.

The vast majority of people who use sites like Twitter do so through software like Tweetdeck, or through aggregator websites like Ping.fm. If Twitter were to just turn off their API that allows other websites and software to post to it, its user base is just going to drift over to other microblog websites that still allow this function.

Charging money to use their API isn’t going to work either, because the software makers also aren’t making a buck yet. They give their stuff away for free too, and they also haven’t figured out how to turn their traffic into currency.

What we have here is a whole ecosystem of really useful websites, supported only by the burn rate of their initial venture capital investments.

My bet on who wins in the long term? Companies like Facebook, who actually have traffic “on” their website, not “through” their website. Maybe they will win by being the only ones left standing, or maybe they’ll win by buying up microblogging websites and keeping them on life support as a service to their users. Either way, my gut says that a bunch of sites that I really enjoy using aren’t going to be around for all that long.

6 responses on “Who is going to win the microblogging wars?

  1. sol

    Better question: does it matter? Does “microblogging” really matter? Most of the time these “tweets” seem filled with banalities such as “/me has to go to bathroom”, “/me is getting some coffe”, “/me is tweeting instead of working”, etc…
    I dunno. I think this is one of those trends that just can’t die soon enough. 😛

    1. admin Post author

      There are plenty of people using Twitter for useless personal stuff.

      Before you count it out, take a look at what Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, Problogger, Chris Brogan and others are doing with it.

      Yup. Twitter has real business / marketing utility. It just LOOKS like a time waster…

  2. Elie

    Valid points by both Jeremy and Sol. But for those of us who use the blogging sites for more than those inane banalities, Jeremy’s point stands. As far as the inane banalities go, well, at least we can take comfort in knowing they won’t be around for much longer.

  3. sol

    Ok so where is the utility in it? It seems lost on me, probably because Twitter looks like it has a very low signal-to-noise ration.

    1. admin Post author

      Wait until you see somebody with 100k followers working the system.

      Seriously, there are people using Twitter to gain a huge amount of influence. We’re talking about bloggers from absolutely nowhere who get interviewed on CNN regarding technology. Others who have hundreds of thousands of visitors to their websites per day. Still others whose books become bestsellers – all purely from promotion on microblogs.

      1. admin Post author

        You should see the negative writeup I did on Twitter the first time I tried it out. I completely couldn’t get the point.

        Once I started getting a following (yeah I know, its small compared to the superusers), I realized I could drive traffic here.

        Then I started seeing what some of the not for profits and social activists do with it.