How Twitter Makes Money From Occupy Wall Street

By Michael Comeau  NOV 17, 2011 11:00 AM

Through promoted accounts, Twitter is monetizing news on the fly in a way that no other news organization can.


The Occupy Wall Street crowd marched through downtown Manhattan this morning to among other things, disrupt the opening of the New York Stock Exchange (NYX) -- but it turns out that the chaos could be a financial boon for social-media giant Twitter.

This morning, I loaded up TweetDeck to follow the chaos, and began tracking the hashtags #OWS and #OccupyWall Street.

Here's what I saw:

(Click to enlarge)

At that top of each stream is @Verigreedy a.k.a Stop Verizon Greed, a promoted Twitter account for the Communications Workers of American Union, which is engaged in a public battle with telecommunications giant Verizon (VZ) over worker wages and benefits.

If you follow the link to the CWA's website, you'll find a very Occupy Wall Street-esque message:

As Verizon continues to offer proposals aimed to destroy middle-class jobs and cut benefits, Verizon workers are hitting the streets. Verizon represents not just the 1%, but the top one-tenth of 1% in this country. The company’s five highest executives took home $258 million in salary and benefits over the last four years. Yet, Verizon paid no federal income taxes from 2008 to 2010 and instead received $951 million in tax rebates.

On Thursday, November 10, the Verizon Workers' March for the 99% will set off for New York City from downtown Albany to shine a spotlight on the corporate greed run rampant at Verizon.

So why is this interesting?

Think about it.

The CWA is paying money to put its @VeriGreedy account, and its website, in the front of people tracking Occupy Wall Street. And given that Twitter has been forced to throttle streams, it's safe to say that much of the world is paying close attention.

And thus Twitter is actually monetizing a specific societal trend and associated news events on the fly -- something no traditional media organization can do.

It's not just the CWA. Searches on for #OWS and #OccupyWallStreet revealed promoted accounts from organizations like the Service Employees International Union, Americans Elect, and National Parks News. I even saw the New York Life insurance company pop up once, though that may have been some type of glitch.

In June of 2011, GE (GE) and Comcast (CMCSA) subsidiary NBC announced that it beat out Disney's (DIS) ESPN and News Corp.'s (NWSA) Fox Sports to broadcast four Olympics Games through 2020 at a cost of $4.4 billion.

That guarantees NBC a certain volume of exclusivity to major news events, with I'm sure what is a reasonable expectation of profit for them.

Nothing wrong with that.

But think about what's happening on the ground in New York City right now.

A spontaneously created of journalists -- a.k.a. everyday people with Apple (AAPL) iPhones -- is delivering news from the ground via Twitter, which in turn is monetizing that news.

Are the 99% delivering the quality of professional journalism outlets like Bloomberg and the New York Times?

No, but they don't have to, because Twitter's success has proven that 140 characters worth of content at a time is more than enough for millions upon millions of people.

Thus, Twitter is becoming an incredibly powerful news outlet, dedicated to covering -- and profiting from -- well, anything big that happens in range of a cell phone.

Twitter: @MichaelComeau


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