Twitter is starting to place ads within tweets on
publishers’ websites, starting with a group of titles including
The move hints at Twitter’s plan to make revenue from
programmatic advertising that uses automated software to place
ads on publishers’ sites.
Twitter is testing the technology with local news
publishers and blogs that commonly plug streams of tweets into
their websites apps.
Twitter has a plan to make more money outside of Twitter — while
also helping publishers squeeze out a bit more revenue.
After setting up a
cryptic landing page in May for a program dubbed Twitter
Timeline Ads that pitched publishers on a new way to make money,
the program is now live with some outlets.
The new program places ads into Timelines — or strings of tweets
— that these publishers embed into their websites.
The Street is one publisher employing the new program. For
example, on the right-hand side of its site a section pulls in a
real-time feed of anchor Jim
Cramer’s tweets. On Tuesday, display ads for Discover popped
up between tweets and linked to the brand’s website.
Twitter said that the Timeline Ads program includes large,
medium, and small publishers.
However, a few years ago such custom Twitter Timelines could be
found on lots of websites. But now they seem to be less common as
many web publishers have de-emphasized on
their websites to focus on distribution across social
That said, the tactic is still common with local news and
mid-size publishers. Advance Local — which owns AL.com,
Syracuse.com, and The Oregonian/OregonLive.com — is
also participating in Twitter’s beta program.
Twitter has a shot at becoming a bigger programmatic ad
Programmatic advertising is a massive market for both
Facebook and Google but Twitter has been slower to move into
automated ad buying outside of its own site and app. Twitter did
purchase the ad tech firm MoPub
for $350 million in 2013, but that business is primarily
focused on helping mobile app publishers manage their ad
inventory — and less on desktop ads.
With the new initiative, Twitter says the top 20 tweets in a
Timeline are eligible for ads. Ads will be slotted between the
first and second tweets, the 7th and 8th tweets, the 13th and
14th tweets and between the 19th and 20th tweets.
The ad revenue will equally split between Twitter and publishers,
Business Insider has previously reported.
Twitter’s test is leaning on ad-tech companies to serve display
ads within Timelines but it’s not hard to imagine that Twitter
may start serving Promoted Tweets in Timelines. That could open
up new ad inventory that Twitter can pitch to advertisers as
reach outside of its own apps and site.
OpenX is selling the inventory with a handful of demand-side
platforms including Sizmek-owned RocketFuel plugged into the
“We are continuing to evolve and iterate the ways in which we can
work with publishers to help them generate revenue through unique
real-time content monetization opportunities, on and off
platform,” said a Twitter spokesperson. “We are running an alpha
test to explore new channels of demand with OpenX, and are
looking forward to seeing how this evolves.”
Twitter wants to stay away from spammy display ads
To participate in the ad program, publishers are encouraged to
set up ads.txt, the digital advertising industry’s initiative
backed by the IAB Tech Lab to prevent un-authorized tech vendors
from selling ads on publishers’ sites. In doing so, publishers
theoretically keep ad fraud out of their inventory and only work
with a limited number of ad-tech partners.
While Twitter has mulled a
subscription version of Tweetdeck, the bulk of its revenue
comes from ads sold on its platform. Half of its revenue comes
The move into serving ads directly into websites opens up a
potential new form of revenue for Twitter and hints at a larger
push into programmatic advertising.