By Craig Buckler

Twitter Starts Charging in Japan

By 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?

  • jazzdrive3

    I can see hardcore fans paying to see tweets of stars and personalities they like. It’s already been proven that they will pay for that type of stuff.

    However, it won’t sustain a full business model. Just a nice egg in the basket.

  • pnolan

    Well, this would just trim my users list. I wouldnt pay for 140 char tweet from anybody.

  • just_passing_by

    I’m certainly not reading the tweets for the 140 characters but for the links. I wouldn’t be here at Sitepoint as often as I am were it not for twitter. BUT: I wouldn’t pay you or anyone for reading their tweets. It might not be as easy as just having a look at the tweets but there are other ways to keep updated.

  • @espinet

    if a person’s tweet will be that valueable, only one person needs to follow and retweet it so the rest of the world can see.

    140 characters isnt worth money for he average user. maybe someone who makes money of this kind of information but i doubt they could make a business model off it.

  • Justice4all

    The way the world is at present, with Greed, and the rich getting richer and the poor poorer, and the idiots who pay up everytime some one or some firm puts prices on or up, saddens me, Twitter will go when prices will come maybe not straight away, but I for one will not pay, along with my sat/tv/ high prices to watch rubbish, i have stopped getting a daily paper , stopped going out for meals , going to the pictures, using public transport, Heck i am getting like the rest , But when your wages are basic and you dont have money you cant spend it only pay the bills,

  • eight

    According to Twitter’s Japanese blog (blog.twitter.jp) this information is out of context. They will not charging for access to premium accounts.


  • Why not. It’s a bold move by twitter to obliterate traditional advertising based publishing models in our western media markets.

    I see see twitter rock stars of 2011, think about the @armano or @cshirky of today, opening up new revenue potential by adding a ‘premium’ account next to their public one, truly insightful timely ideas. Same applies to IRL rock stars.

    Now the distribution model has proven it’s concept worldwide. This is strategically strong move. To try out such a business model in one of the fast forwarded mobile economies is pretty smart. Japanese consumers are well accustomed to paying for premium content. Twitter has time on it’s side figuring out payment process, pay out and price setting in a closed environment that is two to four years ahead of Europe and US markets. Add to that parallel build up of distribution and market awareness in our lagging markets: Twitter will be extremely well informed to attack and defend against the Western publishing moguls by 2011.

    The author gets paid by the audience. A long sought for model is on the rise. If anyone can bring it to an economical succes, it’s gonna be Twitter.

  • spader725

    I can see this working for celebrities whose target audience is teenage girls, and maybe businesses who post free things or extensive articles through their twitter. All of the people i follow on twitter can be followed on facebook or an rss feed, or are people I would just flat out not follow at all if charged.

    With that said, i do agree it could fill a nice and small niche market

  • either i won’t pay for twitter except some useful information for me

  • @eight
    Wow — Twitter are denying it! So how did DG Mobile get it so wrong? I’d be surprised if there weren’t some truth in it — Twitter need revenue and this appears to be a reasonable solution that they would certainly be considering.

  • Craig, do you know for *sure* that DG Mobile is the entity that got anything wrong? Everything I’ve read elsewhere suggests that it was the reporting that was wrong, not the presentation.

  • huit

    @Craig Buckler
    (BTW this is eight…)

    As far as I can trace it, the source is an IT Media Mobile news release which states quite plainly what the proposed fees would be and that the services would start January 2010. (http://www.itmedia.co.jp/promobile/articles/0911/25/news093.html)

    I found the “correction” press release while looking into the twitter.jp ads. It looks like they’ve changed all these “ads” to internal ads promoting Twitter services… I doubt they’re making a profit from those. Twitter’s About Page does state that they are looking into various business models. Eventually they’ll be making a profit in one form or another, whether it’s from ads, user fees or something else.

    So it seems to me like this is either something that was announced prematurely, or is just speculation which somehow passed through editing unverified.

  • @Craig

    I also read about the misinformation over at techcrunch. So either Twitter is in denial (as you say), or DG Mobile (and whomever else) got it wrong. In either case, there are currently two sides to the story, yet plenty of internet resources (including this one) propogating one side only. I can now see why blogs and other such sites are being heavily criticized for bogus / inaccurate content.

    This article is perhaps a perfect example for the need of either a) doing some actual journalistic investigation before hand, or b) waiting till the source itself actually confirms things before propogating potentially inaccurate info. While both options haven’t happened, it is perhaps wisest to present the information as a “possibility” (read: neutralistic standpoint) as opposed to declaring things as truth without accurate confirmation. Credibility from sites like this (as well as DG Mobile, techcrunch and friends) take a hit as far as I’m concerned. Lessons can definitely be learned here (but highly unlikely). This is the internet afterall, and everything stated within it must be true.

  • DG were presenting at a conference, so it appears a lot of reporters misunderstood the context. Perhaps something got lost in translation?

  • NetNerd85

    No, Probably (dumb is THE cash cow), Social what? is that where you meet people and talk to them while looking at their face and interacting on a physical level? then no… OoOo MSN!

  • Marc Glasberg

    To commemorate the fact that Twitter is NOT going to charge it’s users I have created a Twitter mockup that implements the exact functionality TechCrunch has described. It sells fake Robert Scoble SuperTweets. Have a look here:


    SuperTweets are tweets up to 420 characters. The mockup charges 1 cent micropayments to show each SuperTweet, and it charges 30 cents micro-subscription to show all of them.

    I don’t know if this would work or not if Twitter implemented it, but TC seems to think it might, since this mockup follows exactly the functionality described here: http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/11/27/6-reasons-why-twitter-japans-subscription-model-might-work-in-japan

    What do you think??

  • It doesn’t have to work for just about every twitter user out there. However, the more popular ones such as celebs, politicians, journalists etc could do well with this model. This may especially be the case when the same content isn’t produced on blogs which are syndicated by products like alltop. It’ll be interesting to see what “talking money” can do to an otherwise free environment.

  • savvydesigner

    twitter sure is taking its popularity a bit too “for granted”. i strongly oppose the act!

  • Justin Chandler

    You would be unwilling to pay $1.50 per month for a service that you use regularly? What kind of a cheap ass bastard are you? As I’m typing this, I’m drinking a bottle of Mountain Dew, which cost me $1.50 from the coke machine.

    Don’t try to play off your cheap ass antics by pretending to be making a ‘good economical choice’. Do you rent any movies? Do you have Internet access? How about a cell phone? Any one of these cost a great deal more than FIVE CENTS per day. Why not cut out some of that unnecessary expense?

  • Ash

    Twitter is the beginning of micro-blogging. If it truly turns out to not be merely a novelty though, then surely charging money will make room for new competition on the micro-blogging front? Perhaps not though. I guess Twitter has planted a seed that has grown to a certain point where it makes that difficult. Celebs are using it and all.

  • Moreover if their business are good, the people will go for the premium account of twitter also.

Get the latest in Entrepreneur, once a week, for free.