In April, Idealab founder Bill Gross launched a new startup called TweetUp. The new company would, he said, provide a way for publishers to include ranked tweets on their sites, as well as ads in the form of sponsored tweets. The idea is that people and companies will pay to promote their own tweets, while publishers will incorporate TweetUp’s ranked results on their own pages, rather than an unsorted or weakly sorted (i.e. keyword match) serving from Twitter.
TweetUp also maintains an index of bloggers, with 140-character tweet-like bios for each. For any topic, TweetUp can return both a ranked set of results and a ranked set of bloggers. You can see TweetUp in action at TechCrunch, in the rightmost column of the site’s home page.
Today, TweetUp, which Gross himself runs as CEO, announced the acquisition of two companies, Twidroid and popurls. Twidroid is one of the top Twitter clients for Google’s Android mobile operating system used in Google’s Nexus One phone, plus Motorola’s Droid phones and several HTC models. The app, which will be renamed Twidroyd to distance it from Lucasfilm’s Star Wars droid characters, will provide a delivery platform for TweetUp’s sorted results (read: ads). Plus the client will provide TweetUp with data on how Android customers are interacting with Twitter. Rather than hope Android users will download it, TweetUp claims to be cutting deals that will ship Twidroyd pre-installed on Android handsets.
Popurls, the second acquisition, is another startup created by Twidroid founder Thomas Marban. It’s a news aggregator that maintains lists of the most popular items from a list of top-tier sites including the New York Times, Twitter, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, YouTube, and Flickr. TweetUp plans to incorporate its top tweets and top tweeters into popurls.
TweetUp will serve customized content into both Twidroyd and popurls. The tweets can be served as straight content, or displayed as a sort of AdSense for Twitter, showing content-targeted, highest-bidder tweets alongside Web pages. In addition to tweets, TweetUp users can create 140-word bios of themselves that will also be displayed in some contexts.
In a press release about the acquisition, TweetUp claimed that, in a few weeks, more than 40 million unique users per month will begin to see TweetUp-ranked tweets on sites they visit, or within the Twidroyd client. Partners include Answers.com, BusinessInsider, and Topix. Gross is betting that users will prefer the ranked results to Twitter’s current newest-on-top sorting.
No doubt some will balk at what they see as advertisements replacing home-brew content. Gross’ take is the exact opposite: A good tweet, he believes, is a tweet that someone’s willing to pay to promote.
TweetUp has secured $3.5 million in funding led by Index Ventures, who placed Danny Rimer on TweetUp’s board of directors. Other investors include Betaworks, an early-stage investor that specializes in Twitter-related startups; First Round Capital; former AOL CEO Steve Case; well-known angel investor Ron Conway; former Entertainment Weekly editor turned media blogger Jeff Jarvis; and Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis.
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