Sponsored tweets? Journalism & Advertising?

Advertising is crucial to the health of the news industry; it is the egg in the cake mixture, the crucial ingredient that binds everything together, even when print product sales are dropping.  As the newspaper business navigates the transition to into the digital era, online advertising is becoming an ever more important revenue stream, much has been said about the necessity to ‘stack those dimes’ that trickle in from web ads in order to survive tough financial conditions.

In light of this situation, when someone proposes an alternative source of advertising, you can’t blame news organisations for pricking up their ears and listening.  What is this new source of ad revenue? The sponsored tweet.

‘Great! Another way to grab some much needed cash!’ you might think… but is it really a good idea for newspapers to issue sponsored material on their Twitter feeds?

Why could you argue that sponsored tweeting is a good idea?

1) MONEY. It’s sad but true, newspapers need money. According to Nieman Lab, sponsored tweets can supposedly bring in $300 per day for a publication like The Statesman , which deals with news and entertainment in Austin, Texas. The publication puts out two clearly labelled sponsored tweets per day promoting local businesses and events. This is valuable revenue from 140 characters.

2) EVERYBODY ELSE IS DOING IT, SO WHY CAN’T WE? The idea of tweet itself as currency is also now fairly ingrained in social media pratice; now there are sites like PayWithATweet.com, which lets users create a ‘pay with a tweet’ button that will allow other tweeters to promote their product with a tweet instead of paying for, say the latest single from an upcoming band or even a new book. Sponsored tweeting is a natural extension of the ‘tweet as currency’ phenomenon. It’s also nothing new. Reality TV stars and celebrities do it all the time, tweeting endorsements is a common event for Kim Kardashian, who may even be worth $10,000 per tweet.

Why it might be a bad idea?

1) IT’S NOT JOURNALISM.  Advertising isn’t journalism. This poses two problems: firstly that it may be difficult for the audience to tell what is news and what is endorsements. Some argue that by clearly marking the tweet as sponsored or using the hash tag #spon, audiences will be able to distinguish advert from news content. Yet it still poses the same problem as ‘the advertorial’ format- its not independent journalism and it compromises the identity of a news brand as an independent source of information.

2) Secondly, will it bore your audience? For many people, Twitter is already a trigger for information overload, so too many sponsored tweets is likely to annoy your followers. The aim of social media is to engage your community – not irritate them. 

3) WILL IT ACTUALLY WORK? Although social media advertising isn’t exactly new, there is a certain reluctance amongst many business owners to trust that twitter advertising will reach the right people. As Nieman Lab points out, it’s a new technique, and even though there are better systems for evaluating the impact on advertising through Twitter, ie analytics provided by online services, some would still prefer to use the advertising methods they have used in the past. 

Bastante que hablar sobre este asunto, no sólo en Twitter.

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