Twitter as the Media Industry's Bellweather Company in 2010

Last Updated Jan 4, 2010 6:40 PM EST

As goes Twitter, so goes the media industry in 2010.

That is my single blunt prediction.

The San Francisco-based micro-blogging service apparently turned a tiny profit in 2009, thanks to late-season deals to integrate its Tweets with the Google and Bing search engines.

That little hint of a business model is a harbinger of things to come -- not just for Twitter but for the industry as a whole.

We have entered the age of real-time news and information.

Twitter's growth last year, however you measure it, was explosive -- well over 1,000 percent, according to the usual sources. But there is no reliable measure of Twitter's actual user base, because most metrics capture online visits only, when common sense and anecdotal evidence suggests most people access Twitter from mobile devices, not desktop or laptop computers.

What we do know is that Twitter assumed the position as what I called the "breaking news channel of choice" early last June, during the initial stages of the popular revolt in Iran, which continues to this day.

Twitter later cemented its pre-eminent position by hosting the media firestorm that erupted upon the death of Michael Jackson.
In 2010, the challenge facing the company is to implement a sustainable business plan. The search deals with Google and Microsoft are a good start, but if the revenue levels that have been reported from those deals (roughly $25 million total) are accurate, Twitter will need additional sources of income to finance what promises to be another year of explosive growth.

Meanwhile, the rest of the media industry needs to catch up with its new leader, and craft new ways to fit into a rapidly shifting landscape.

Related Bnet links:
Top Media Industry Story of 2009: #iranelection "As 2009 draws to a close, it is time to look back on the most important developments in the media business this past year..."

Signs of Twitter's Business Model Emerge Via Bing, Google Deals "The partnership deals recently announced by Twitter with Bing and Google contain some hints of what kind of monetization strategy the micro-blogging, social media service is choosing to pursue, at least in the near term..."

Twitter to Add Ads in Q-4; A Biz Model Emerges "On Twitter's official blog, co-founder Biz Stone announced yesterday that the micro-blogging service had revised its "Terms of Use" to, among other things, "leave the door open for advertising..."

Geo-Coded Twitter + Hyper-Local Media = CoolBiz Model "The San Francisco Street Food Festival today brought together "micro-entrepreneurs, informal food vendors and renowned chefs" in a celebration of..."

New Twitter Home Page a Good Start "Right on schedule, Twitter launched its new home page this week, though you would not necessarily have known that if you are a regular visitor..."

Experts: Twitter is the Game-Changer "Earlier today, during a meeting in Silicon Valley, I spoke with two exceptionally talented executives, both of whom have had long, successful careers with tech/media companies big and small, and both of whom have been extremely active online since the earliest days of the web..."

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.