By Therese Poletti, MarketWatch
This column has been updated to correct the name of Tinker.com
CARLSBAD, Calif. (MarketWatch) — The two co-founders of the San Francisco start-up Twitter managed to evade most questions at the All Things Digital conference about how the micro-blogging company will generate revenue, charming many in the audience and befuddling others.
The founders of the Startup of the Moment also seem staunchly committed to keeping the company independent, even after reportedly receiving offers from the hot social-networking company Facebook and Google Inc. (GOOG 424.84, -4.16, -0.97%) They are also focused on making the popular service, which has suffered outages amid its heady growth, more robust.
Co-founder and Chief Executive Evan Williams even said that selling banner advertising on the company’s Web site was the “least interesting” way it could generate revenue. Co-founder Biz Stone said Twitter has to take into account new applications or possibilities that might emerge as the service grows.
“We have to bake into our plans the fact that we don’t know,” Stone said.
The two co-founders told MarketWatch in an interview after their time on stage that they hope to be generating some revenue by the end of this year. But details were sparse.
Twitter Founders Intend to Generate Revenue by Year End
Twitter Co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams tell MarketWatch Columnist Therese Poletti at the D Conference how they plan to attain their goal of generating revenue by the end of the year. (May 27)
By all accounts, this “build it and they will come” mentality can be a recipe for a disaster, as evidenced by the many failures in the dot-com boom and bust of 2000-2001.
But at least one company, content network Glam Media of New York, is figuring out ways to glean revenue in Twitter’s popularity. Glam Media recently launched Tinker.com, a quick way to find the hottest topics on Twitter. Glam Media is starting to sell ads related to widely discussed topics on Twitter.
“We are monetizing Twitter,” said Samir Arora, Glam’s chief executive and founder.
So if others are in the early stages of figuring out how to make money from Twitter, surely Twitter’s leaders can. And there are a slew of ideas for the young company, some of which were also tossed out at the conference.
One attendee suggested charging for Twitter applications, much as Apple Inc.(AAPL 136.97, -2.98, -2.13%) charges 99 cents for many iPhone applications. Another idea Stone mused upon in a recent blog posting was to connect businesses and their customers.
Maybe they just aren’t yet sure which revenue-generation idea will stick. And they need to deal with retaining the users who sign on but then only infrequently use the service, which limits its messages to 140 characters.
But one thing was clear: everyone in the tech-centric audience was rooting for them.
Therese Poletti is a senior columnist for MarketWatch in San Francisco.