TweetUp, Sponsored Tweets say they dodge Twitter's new restrictions

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Twitter developers say they’re pivoting around the social network’s broad new restrictions on advertising and that their business models won’t be too detrimentally affected.

The San Francisco-based microblogging network said today that it won’t allow third-party companies to serve ads in user feeds and said that businesses that earn revenue from Twitter content may have to compensate the company. (The company wasn’t clear on how it would determine when to require compensation. Size will be a factor, however.)

The moves potentially affect a number of companies that have experimented with advertising on Twitter. 140Proof, for example, serves in-stream ads in several Twitter clients. They didn’t return multiple requests for comment, except to say, “We are in active discussions with Twitter (about these and other matters), and have been for several weeks. Once that process concludes we will have an exciting announcement to make.”

TweetUp, which dubbed itself the “AdSense” of Twitter and debuted new widgets today in New York, said that it doesn’t tamper with timelines, so it won’t violate the new terms of service. The company re-sorts tweets, in an attempt to float the best stuff to the top. Rather than trying to auto-rate tweets based on content or links, TweetUp allows people to pay to bid up specific tweets so they stick to the top of TweetUp’s search results.

The company’s new widgets are focused on promoting specific users, not showing streams of tweets, so it’s not technically inserting ads into a “timeline” per se. The company said that its future products won’t be focused on displaying timelines. But Twitter could just change its terms again.

“It’s hard to predict what they’re going to do, but the vast, vast majority of our plans really, are not going to be affected by the terms of service changes,” said TweetUp’s chief operating officer Jon Kraft. (It should be noted that TweetUp and Twitter share a common investor in Betaworks.)

Sponsored Tweets, a service which pays popular Twitter users every time they share commercial content, said it was moving to a model where people have to manually type in tweet ads. It was working on a more automated basis before, and says that having people decide manually copy and paste commercial tweets won’t violate the new rules.

“Twitter maintains that they don’t seek to control what a user tweets,” wrote Ted Murphy, who is chief executive of Izea, the company that runs Sponsored Tweets. “There are no rules prohibiting people sharing sponsored or commercial messages, they just don’t want it automated through an API.”

It’s a thin line however. While Murphy’s company doesn’t violate the rules, it may violate the spirit of them. Twitter said that its rationale for putting the ban in place was about user experience. The company was concerned that too many poorly targeted ads would look like spam and drive potential users away.

Last year, Facebook moved in the same direction by prohibiting people from using their personal status updates as vehicles for commercial marketing. (Fan Pages are an exception.) It might not be long before Twitter makes the same changes too.


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