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How Microsoft (And Others) Are Trying To Make Money From Status Updates

This story was written by Tameka Kee.
Just a year ago, the idea of building a business around people's status updatesgetting them to answer questions like "What are you doing?" and "What's on your mind?"was laughable. Now that Twitter's hit the mainstream, and companies like Glam Media and 12seconds have figured out how to make real money off these updates, other social networks, startups, and even giants like Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) are focusing more attention on status updates, with an eye toward generating revenue from the start.

Microsoft's Vine: Vine blends status updates with message alerts and local news. The desktop app has a map that shows where users' contacts are; it can send status updates or news reports directly to their phones, and will eventually be able to pull in feeds from networks like Facebook. But Microsoft is aiming beyond social media with Vine: the goal is to make the service the go-to utility for emergency services (like local police departments and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children), since people are increasingly turning to Twitter for breaking news, but there's no way to verify whether the facts being circulated are accurate.

The company is testing Vine with 10,000 users in Seattle; tests in other locations will follow in the coming months. If officials deem the service reliable (and Microsoft can price it so that its cost-effective on a massive scale), The Seattle Times suggests that Vine could be a game-changersiphoning more attention (and potential ad dollars) away from local news outlets, and making real-time mass communication during disasters and emergencies more effective.

Quub: Meanwhile, Irvine, Calif.-based Quub is a startup trying to make it easier for people to update their streams automatically. Quub (pronounced "cube") learns from previous updates so that users can simply click on options (instead of having to type them in); if someone takes a coffee break at the same time daily, for example, Quub would automatically make "coffee break" an available option. The company says it has a business model in mind, but is keeping mum on exactly what it is. One obvious option would be partnering with an ad provider like Glam or Federated Media for "stream" sponsorships. 

The common thread for both Vine and Quub is that they come with more built-in functionality than Twitter. While add-ons like TweetDeck and Brightkite let Twitter users filter their followers and offer location-based status updates, Vine eliminates the need to log in to a separate app to tell your followers "where" you are, and Quub lets people group their contacts automatically. The challenge for both is to get people to adopt yet another status update tool, though Microsoft has a distinctive edge in that peopleespecially atypical social media usersmight flock to Vine if their local police department or weather service winds up endorsing it as their real-time information tool of choice.

Photo Credit: Kytographer

By Tameka Kee

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