As reported at TechCrunch, the social networking service Twitter has started testing ads in their streams of tweets. Unfortunate, but certainly inevitable. The Web 2.0 business model is basically either ads or subscriptions. TechCrunch notes how “Twitter has long been the poster child for the often controversial Valley mantra of build an audience first, and the business model will follow,” as users get sucked in (suckered in?) to the service, becoming affectively attached, so when the inevitable ads or subscription fees come they are reluctant to drop.
Personal disclaimer: Twitter has sucked (suckered?) me in, too.
The Web 2.0 model has been explored by Søren Mørk Petersen, in a brilliantly titled article in First Monday, called “Loser Generated Content“:
Besides the fact that people tend to work more and more at home, their use of different types of software, such as Flickr, Myspace, Facebook and blogging carries relations with it that often resemble work. This even more true if you look at the amount of hours that goes into these sites. So time is not a declining factor in the creation of value, it is exactly the opposite, both in relation to social and affective value, but also economic value. The more time people spend on particular sites, the more the chance of them migrating diminishes, hereby making way for more stable revenue plans for the corporation who owns the site. The users of Flickr that I interviewed all say they would not dream of moving to another site, unless they could take their network with them as well as all their pictures with comments, tags and notes.
It is when the technological infrastructure and design of these sites is combined with capitalism that the architecture begins to oscillate between exploitation and participation.
There’s an almost emotional investment people have with social networking sites today, enough to make people not mind or care about advertising popping up alongside their tweets (as evidenced by the many comments in the TechCrunch post, comments that mostly amount to, “No big deal…”) Again, Petersen:
Web 2.0 emerged primarily after the dotcom crisis. In its early commercial stage, the Internet proved bad at selling commodities but really good at creating hype and economic bubbles. Something else was needed though, and subtler forms of creating surplus evolved in Web 2.0. The discourses surrounding Web 2.0 often seem very seductive in highlighting concepts such as democracy, participation and users. There are very good reasons for this. Web 2.0 technologies are extremely useful and they create desire, joy and pleasure, through their affective integration into everyday life.
So, no doubt, Twitter will introduce its ads, and, for the most part, we’ll hear, “no big deal.”
Is there any recourse, or strategy to oppose the “seduction” of Web 2.0? Recently, the city of Sao Paolo banned advertising in public spaces. Perhaps the online equivalent of that is installing an ad blocker plug-in.