* Access to advertising API slated for Q4-sources
* Will involve Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts
By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO, July 13 Twitter is courting
bigtime advertisers and will soon allow them to tailor,
automate and publish ads in bulk directly onto the Internet
microblogging service, according to two people with knowledge
of the matter.
The company will soon provide a so-called application
programming interface, or API, that will help advertising
agencies and corporations deliver large volumes of ads on
Twitter. Access to the API, which Twitter plans to begin in the
fourth quarter, will initially be rolled out as a test
involving a limited number of partners, the people said.
The move could provide a boost to Twitter's fledgling
advertising business by opening the door to large online
marketing agencies that rely on specialized software tools to
deliver a blizzard of ever-changing ads on popular websites
like Google (GOOG.O) and Facebook.
"It would increase the opportunity for advertisers to
participate in that marketplace. Right now you've got to talk
to a salesperson" to run an ad on Twitter, said one of the
sources, who wished to remain anonymous because details of the
new service are confidential.
The move could also pose a risk to Twitter for consumer
backlash if it results in a barrage of ads to users of the
service, particularly if the promotions are of the
less-exhalted variety like ads for teeth-whitening and
weight-loss products. So far, Twitter has taken a go-slow
approach to advertising for fear of annoying users with
The five-year-old company is taking steps to ramp up its
revenue at a time when its valuation is surging and
anticipation mounts that it could follow in the footsteps of
LinkedIn and Groupon by floating shares in an initial public
According to a recent report in the New York Times, Twitter
is seeking to raise $400 million in funding at an $8 billion
Many details have yet to be hammered out, but the sources
say that Twitter's advertising API will initially let
advertisers automatically deliver ads for two ad formats on its
website: Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts, according to
another one of the sources.
Promoted Tweets allow an advertiser to effectively sponsor
any of the 140-character text messages that users send on
Twitter, while Promoted Accounts let an advertiser promote its
Twitter account to users of the service.
While Twitter is among the most popular Internet social
networking companies with more than 200 million registered
accounts, its advertising efforts have lagged those of larger
rival Facebook, which is expected to generate $4 billion in ad
revenue this year.
NEW KID ON ADVERTISING BLOCK
Twitter, which only began offering advertising on its
service in April 2010, currently has roughly 600 advertisers,
and is expected to generate about $150 million in ad revenue
this year, according to estimates by research firm eMarketer.
"We're always thinking of ways to help marketers get more
value from advertising on Twitter," said Twitter spokesman Matt
Graves in an emailed response. He declined to comment
specifically on Twitter's advertising API.
An API is a standardized set of technical specifications
which allow different software programs to communicate and
Twitter's forthcoming advertising API could complement a
self-serve advertising system, which the company has said it
plans to introduce by the end of the year.
Websites like Facebook and Google offer basic advertising
self-serve features designed to ease the process of buying ads
by small businesses. The systems allow an advertiser to
fill-out online forms to set certain parameters of the ad,
including the text displayed in the ad and the price they want
That kind of system is not well-suited for larger
advertisers that need to buy ads in bulk. Companies that rely
on heavy online marketing such as Groupon and Zynga, as well as
ad agencies representing multiple clients, often run
large-scale online ad campaigns that can involve blasting
thousands of different permutations of an ad.
Numerous companies have built special tools that can
connect directly to the advertising APIs used by Facebook and
"They can just flood the system with ad types and almost in
real time they can figure out which ads are working, which are
most successful, which are getting the clicks at the right
price," said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at research firm
"The risk of course is that it's more challenging to police
and to make sure that the kinds of companies using the ad
system are using it correctly," she said.
(Editing by Bill Rigby, Edwin Chan and Bernard Orr)