Twitter to launch paid-for corporate accounts this year

LONDON - Twitter founder Biz Stone has said that Twitter is planning to launch paid-for commercial accounts, which would provide corporate users with additional services to those that are freely available on the microblogging service.

In an interview with the BBC, Stone said Twitter will begin offering the commercial services this year as he addressed critics who have questioned whether it has a plan to make cash.

The launch of the commercial accounts does not mean all businesses will suddenly have to pay to use Twitter. Stone reassured users that the service would always remain free to corporate and personal users alike, but he said Twitter would offer companies additional paid-for services.

"One of the first things we're going to do is explicitly is commercial accounts and that is providing a special layer of access, Twitter will always be free to everyone whether it is commercial or personal, but you'll be able to pay for an additional layer of access to learn more about your Twitter account to get some freed back to get some analytics to help you become a better twitter," Stone said.

He said that the move would take advantage of some of the commercial use of Twitter that has been witnessed including airlines and large retailers.

Twitter raised an additional $100m earlier this year from venture capitalists, having previously raised $55m, giving it a valuation on Twitter of around $1bn.

The money it has raised is seen as a large amount for a company with little revenues, but this has not dampened the interest of VC firms including Insight Venture Partners, T Rowe Price and Spark Capital and Institutional Venture Partners.

In addition to the premium corporate accounts Stone talked about possible syndication and said that Twitter was also interested in partnerships with media companies.

Stone said: "We also have licensing and syndication possibilities [to make money] in all of our open content. The idea that we can give away this real time feed of data to other companies like Google and Bing in order to allow them to create a better experience for searching twitter."

The possibilities of media partnerships has arisen as Twitter is often faster than traditional news wires at breaking news stories as news and updates comes first to the service from bloggers and citizen journalists producing user-generated content and increasingly traditional media firms.

Stone said that there were some partnerships to be had, particularly in this challenging period for news organisations.

Stone suggested that newspapers should be more open if they want to make money in the online world.

He also had advice for News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch and his plans for paid content. Stone said Murdoch should be allowed to "fail fast" with his pay wall idea.

"They should be looking at this as an opportunity to try something radically different and find out a way to make a ton of money from being radically open rather than some money from being ridiculously closed," he said speaking at a National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts even in London.

The news of paid accounts came in a busy week for Twitter which implemented a retweeting tool, rolled out its geolocation service and a change to its prompt "What are you doing" prompt question.

Twitter has changed the question to "What's Happening?" in an effort to open up and broaden all the things that people use Twitter for.

In a blog post Stone said that people and organisations quickly began using the open nature of Twitter to share anything they wanted.

He said they were seemingly on a quest to ask and answer a different and more immediate question - "What's happening?"

Stone said: "A simple text input field limited to 140 characters of text was all it took for creativity and ingenuity to thrive. Sure, someone in San Francisco may be answering 'What are you doing?' with 'Enjoying an excellent cup of coffee', at this very moment. However, a birds-eye view of Twitter reveals that it's not exclusively about these personal musings.

"Between those cups of coffee, people are witnessing accidents, organising events, sharing links, breaking news, reporting stuff their dad says, and so much more. The fundamentally open model of Twitter created a new kind of information network and it has long outgrown the concept of personal status updates."

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