Twitter Starts Charging in Japan

Craig Buckler

Twitter payments(Since writing this post, Twitter has denied they are implementing premium accounts and state it was a “misunderstood presentation”. Perhaps that’s the case? Decide for yourself!…)

We knew it would happen at some point. Twitter is introducing a new payment model that will charge Japanese followers to view tweets from premium accounts.

Twitter, the popular micro-blogging service, is supposedly worth … a lot of money. Business valuations range from the slightly ridiculous to the utterly obscene. The fact is: no one knows. Twitter is valued on its potential to earn money — which is probably just as well because it’s not making any.

The changes to Twitter in Japan were announced at the Mobidec2009 conference by Kenichi Sugi, chief operating officer of DG Mobile (one of Twitter’s Japanese investors). From January 2010, Twitter users will be able to charge followers who want to read their tweets. Monthly charges will range from $1.15 to $11.60 (US Dollars); the account holder will receive 70% with the rest going to Twitter itself. Followers can opt to pay their subscription fees by credit card or as an additional payment on their mobile phone bill.

Twitter regularly uses the Japanese market to assess new features. Currently, Japan is the only country where Twitter makes any money — primarily because it permits web page advertisements. Twitter has made no announcement regarding other territories, but premium accounts will certainly appear if the project becomes a success.

Will it work? I’m not convinced many Twitter users would be able to charge for their inane ramblings, but who knows? However, premium accounts could work for:

  • agencies providing up-to-date news and gossip, or
  • companies offering personalized information services, e.g. sending you a tweet when your web server goes down or when a share price reaches a certain level.

Even then, the information is usually available elsewhere on the Internet for little or no cost.

Are there any Twitterers you would you pay to follow? Can Twitter make money from the scheme? Or is Twitter passé now that you’ve discovered a newer and better social networking site?