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We’ve gotten hints about Twitter’s business model from its founders, its backers and random speculators — but Kevin Thau, Twitter’s director of mobile business development, gave EconSM attendees a more tangible picture of the startup’s three-pronged revenue stream: It’s about search, carriers and content.
Thau joined Twitter in mid-January, since then, he said the company has brokered about a dozen business deals with partners like mobile service providers, handset makers and even media companies. MarketWatch’s EIC David Callaway grilled him on the details:
— Search: Twitter’s real-time search capabilities have been well-documented (so much so, that even Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has stepped up its real-time search features); Thau said the startup will monetize its search traffic “in some way” — though he didn’t elaborate.
— Carriers: Much of Twitter’s traffic comes from mobile: both through data plans and via SMS. Thau said getting some sort of a cut of the carriers’ data business wouldn’t be a huge source of revenue — but definitely a portion. Twitter’s also working on handset deals that would “integrate the service” into their core functionality from day one.
— Content: MTV is
sharing ad revenue upcoming show with Twitter, so will we see an influx of similar content deals? (Note: MTV has since noted that rev-share talks between the two companies were not finalized, and that Twitter will not be getting a cut of the ad sales for the foreseeable future) Thau said yes — which is partly why they hired a new exec to focus on the media/entertainment business. “The media industry is looking for ways to stay fresh and interactive; you’re already seeing CNN and ABC (NYSE: DIS) Nightline using it, and we think more media companies will start using Twitter as a utility.”