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Why Ads on Twitter Don’t Compare to Ads on TV

I’ve seen them before – “celebrities” who Tweet an ad for a couple bucks. I usually don’t think much about those ads, but they annoy me greatly. Today, writer Joel Stein sent a Tweet:

I didn’t say anything or respond but I was kinda miffed. I thought about unfollowing but I hadn’t quite formulated why, exactly, seeing an ad in my Twitter (in the feed of a person I chose to follow) was so disconcerting until Joel followed up with this Tweet:

“Some people pissed I accept twitter ads. Curious why it’s worse than ads in Time mag, Vh1, time.com, sitcoms, gmail. Is it more invasive?”

Yes, Joel. It is invasive. Not because I’m pissed that I’m seeing ads in my Twitter stream. If ads were part of the Twitter experience – the way that Twitter was able to make money of this great micro-blogging tool that I’ve become so attached to – I wouldn’t mind very much. I already see ads in many of the free Twitter iPhone apps that I use to check my feed or send a quick Tweet by when I’m not at my computer. However, when I see an ad in my feed, it’s a feeling that someone has invaded my world. Twitter isn’t a passive medium like television or a magazine. Twitter is a carefully cultivated list of people whom I want to hear from. These are people in my community, in my industry and, yes, a celebrity or two who occasionally have relevant or interesting things to say.

I follow a couple hundred people on Twitter. I don’t read every message that comes though, even though I’d like to. When I’m trying to catch up on what I’ve missed since the last time I’ve checked Twitter, I often skim the page for pictures of people I know I’d like to see, no matter what and make sure I read them. Joel will no longer be one of those people. That’s not because I’m mad at him or what he says isn’t relevant to me anymore. It’s because the knowledge that he sends out Tweets that are advertising messages means that he’s no longer a top priority for when I need to get through a few hundred Tweets quickly. I’ll still follow him – he’s only sent out a handful of ads since I first started and they’re easy enough to skim over – but if the ads increase, he’ll be gone. There’s plenty of other comedians and writers on Twitter who don’t feel the need to make a quick buck by inserting an ad into their feed.

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