Twitter makes its money by showing ads to its users.
But not all of its users: For the past few months, the social media company has stopped displaying ads, or has dramatically reduced the number of ads it displays, to a small group of some of its most prominent and active users.
For those people, Twitter is an ad-free, or nearly ad-free, experience.
Sources say Twitter made the move in an attempt to get some of its VIP users to stay engaged with the service. That seems a little counterintuitive for a company that appears to be focused on getting new users, not pleasing its hardcore base, but CEO Jack Dorsey seems to endorse the notion: Twitter started playing around with the idea in September, when Dorsey was interim boss, and has kept at it since he took the title for good.
Twitter sources say the company doesn’t select the no-ad or low-ad group purely by star power, but by a variety of criteria, including the volume and reach of the tweets they generate.
I have about 70,000 followers, and I appear to be in the no-ad group. So does my boss,Kara Swisher, who has more than a million followers.
Twitter can afford to turn off ads for a small group of users, since ad dollars haven’t been a real worry for a company that has many worries. Twitter is likely to have generated $2.2 billion in revenue in 2015, almost all of it from ads.
Then again, if Twitter thinks the best way to get people to use Twitter is not show them any ads, then maybe it ought to consider an ad-free option, supported by subscriptions.
I ran that one by Twitter rep Will Stickney, who wouldn’t engage in that discussion. Instead he offered me this statement: “We’re constantly looking at constraints and adjustments to optimize which ads are shown and how often.”