Sunday, 18 April 2010

An online content business model: The pointless tweet chain

A really rather odd phenomenon on twitter the other day.

I saw a tweet looking something like this:

This isn't an unusual format - it comes from someone who has set up an automated retweet command, and at the end of each message is a link back to the original tweet. Normally you can click straight through to the original link, but as you can see in this case, the link itself has been truncated, so I need to first click on the link to see what it is.

Often I can't be bothered going through this two-step process - Twitter is very much the Internet equivalent of the impulse buy, and two clicks is often not worth it. But this was a story I was interested in.

So I click on the link:

As expected, it's another shortened link - so I click on that too, in order to read the story.

Or so I thought - for some reason, it takes me to yet another landing page:

Maybe @myfxdeals is making his own landing pages for every story in order to generate more clicks? In any case this truncated story still doesn't show me the figures I want to see, so I need to click again to get the real article. Here goes, then...

Getting stupid now. This isn't the real story either. I have been drip-fed one more piece of information - the expected growth rate in 2012 - but still I'm not on the real story with the background analysis.

Another click and I'm on the Times site - now with four separate tabs open - to see a David Smith piece which I would probably have found anyway via his blog (which you'll see in my blogroll on the right):

The only thing that will make this process more annoying is when the Sunday Times starts charging for access to its content, as Rupert Murdoch has promised it will.

If anyone seriously thinks this is a good way to earn clickthroughs, they are being very short-sighted. The most likely outcome is that I unfollow the person I originally got this from (@TweetEcon), in which case they'll get no more traffic from me at all. More likely nobody has thought it through. Maybe one of them will notice this post and see if the whole thing can be streamlined.

Of course if this is an attempt to generate more clicks, it may be an inept reaction to the very fact that the Sunday Times does not charge for content, and so someone is instead trying to make a business model out of generating more clicks and selling more ads. Felix Salmon has given some persuasive reasons why this probably won't work in the long term.

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