Every time you hit “refresh” on your Twitter feed, the micro-blogging company is earning money, since it measures its advertising revenue on views. It’s approximately a tenth of a penny – not exactly a windfall – but considering how frequently users replenish their feeds, this strategy is lucrative (remember this strategy from the guys in “Office Space?”). According to Quartz, Twitter users opened and refreshed the service 158 billion times last year, which equals out to 635 Timeline views for every active user.
And yesterday, when Twitter announced an update to its Android app (and promised that this update will soon come to iOS) it set in motion a plan to make even more money off page-refreshing practices. Along with additional photo-editing tools, Twitter’s app update will show users recommended content whenever they refresh their feed – users they may want to follow, promoted material, etc. This will give people more incentive to refresh their feeds more regularly, which in turn will give Twitter more opportunities to put up sponsored tweets.
This is ingenious because it allows Twitter to make more money while actually providing users with something useful (or, at least, not offensive). People who would normally have to wait for their feeds to produce new content will instead have a new surfacing tool, albeit one that highlights promoted content.
Twitter’s plan is a fairly innocuous way to encourage users to refresh, but it could have two victims: both Tweetdeck and Twitter for Mac automatically load new tweets, so those users have no incentive to refresh their pages. And while this monetizations scheme for extra refreshes will only apply to the Android app for now, if it works, Twitter may want to expand it to other products – which means the company may want to shutter these two services, which do not have huge user bases, but are beloved by those who use them.