Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock for the past year or so, you’ve probably realized that Twitter has been one of the biggest influences on web culture in years.  It’s changed the way we communicate, how we think scaling applications, and launched countless startups based on it’s api.

Now, there have been countless blog posts, articles, and essays on this subject, so I’m obviously not breaking any ground here.  But, I thought it would be interesting to put my own two cents into the mix and propose a revenue model of my own.

Build Now, Pay Later

One thing Twitter hasn’t been able to nail down (at least publicly) is a revenue model.   They’re the poster-child of the web 2.0 “build now, monetize later” strategy so typical of startups in the past few years.  But, in today’s economy, this simply won’t fly.

To be honest, I never understood this approach to application development.  Now, I do understand the whole “design for design’s sake” mentality. However, if you’re going to take it beyond something that you can enjoy with friends or family, there has to be something supporting it.

Vertical Discussion

With the election only a few months ago, one of the most fascinating and extremely addictive I visited (on a daily basis) was Election.twitter.com.  This site provided me with something I couldn’t find anywhere else on the web; instant feedback on debates, polling results, commercials… really anything in or around the election.

Now, what if they took this same approach and applied it to other events or industries?

The 30k ft view here is to create communities or discussion groups around a specific topic or industry that provides like minded users to discuss their passion in real time.

As a case study, let’s look at Professional sports – and more specifically… the upcoming Superbowl.

 Here we have an opportunity to provide enthusiasts a way to instantly communicate in real time, as the event is happening.  Now, all those arm chair coaches and referees have an opportunity to voice their opinions to something other than the TV or their friends and family.

The revenue opportunity here could be from sponsored pages, in-stream advertising (sponsored tweets), or market research.

TweetSense?

CPC Text Ads have become an extremely effective advertising vehicles.  After all, Google has built an empire out of those simple, unobtrusive, yet targeted text ads in search results.  Why not take this same approach and apply it to sponsored tweets?

Now, this is obviously a very sensitive area to croach in on, and if it’s not done right, it can do more bad than good. 

The ads would need to be easily identifiable as advertising and few enough to not impede on the user experience.

Since they’re text ads, it would provide an excellent opportunity for an automated system, similar to Adsense, where advertisers could quickly and easily create, purchase, and manage their own ads online.  It would also provide an excellent opportunity for a partnership between Google, Yahoo!, or any other well established ad management infrastructures out there.

Final Words

With the current economic situation, I think 2009 will see some sort of revenue stream come to Twitter.  They’ve obviously been planning something, but I think under the current circumstances, their investors will be looking for something sooner than later.