Brainstorm Tech 2010

Where the Fortune 500 and the innovators meet to shape the future of business. (July 22-24, 2010)

Twitter grows up, focuses on money

June 14, 2010: 4:08 PM ET

This is one of a series of articles leading up to Fortune Brainstorm Tech, which takes place July 22-24 in Aspen, Colo. The articles will look back at the progress of companies that presented at Brainstorm in 2009 as well as look forward to those that will present this year.

By Shelley DuBois, reporter

It looks like the social networking platform turned media monster has figured out how to pocket some change.

This has been the biggest question about Twitter -- how it could turn a profit. When Fortune checked in with Twitter co-founder Biz Stone at last year's Brainstorm Tech conference, he said that they were going to roll out a business model over the course of the year.

They did. Their first moneymaking move was to sell the right to include Twitter posts in search results to Google and Microsoft in December. In April, they launched their new promoted tweets, a cautious foray into the world of 140-character advertising. Caution is key, Stone said last year, "What we don't want to end up being is that child actor that got success early and grew up all freaky. What we want to be is Ron Howard."

Promoted tweets are ads that partner companies can buy. They show up at the top of the results page when people search for partner companies on Twitter. Stone explains the basics of the ad system in a blog post.

Stone also mentioned that the company was still going to add value to customers who were using Twitter for free. To that end, Twitter released a new feature, annotations, which will enable users to cram more context into tweets by tagging them with simple code.

At the 2009 conference, Stone referenced Twitter's 55 employees, open floor plan and community atmosphere at headquarters. It probably had to get more corporate since now, they've got money coming in and over 200 employees.

One of them is Dick Costolo, previously a Google executive and CEO of a content syndication application called Feedburner. He'll be speaking at the 2010 Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen. Should be interesting to talk to Twitter as they're finally raising real revenue. Stone said it was all about the ideology. "One of the things we really want to do at Twitter is actually have a real positive impact on the world, and the only way we can do that is by making tons and tons of money." They've got the ball rolling.

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Shelley DuBois
Shelley DuBois
Writer - Reporter, Fortune

Shelley DuBois writes on management issues for Fortune.com. Before joining Fortune, she was a producer for National Public Radio's Science Friday and worked for Wired. Shelley has a graduate degree in science, health and environmental reporting from New York University. She lives in Brooklyn.

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