Back Off My Twitter, Google

My friend Rick Munarriz's urgings notwithstanding, I can't think of a single reason for microblogger Twitter, a billion-dollar business in the making, to sell itself to Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) right now.

Nor can Twitter's founders. "We want to go for it and make a successful business out of this," co-founder Biz Stone told BusinessWeek recently.

Not that there haven't been buyout talks. There have been. BusinessWeek confirmed as much in an interview with Stone and CEO Evan Williams. There could be more; an advertising tie-up with Google is too obvious to ignore. History also favors a TwitGoo tango: Williams sold Blogger to Google in 2003.

Yet Twitter is much more than buyout bait.

It's a shopping mall! No, a news wire!
Former Macintosh evangelist Guy Kawasaki depends on it. So much so, that he'd rather go a week without a mobile phone than forego his Twitter feed for a similar length of time. Why? Because without it, traffic to Alltop.com, an online magazine rack that he co-created, would drop by 20%. That's powerful testimony.

So are the stories of how Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) and Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) sell goods via Twitter. Dell, in particular, has sold more than $1 million in refurbished PCs using the service.

Equally awe-inspiring are tales of Twitter's ability to break news. Eyewitnesses tweeted horrific details of last year's attacks in Mumbai, India. Twitter also played a role in reporting the so-called "Miracle on the Hudson," in which the pilots and crew of US Airways flight 1549 safely landed in the water when a birdstrike brought down the jetliner shortly after takeoff.

Entrepreneur Janis Krums chronicled the event by snapping a photo with his iPhone. Fame and interviews followed, as writer Shel Israel tells it in his forthcoming book, Twitterville.

Twitter, Israel says, has forever changed the business of reporting the news. "Twitter has made everyone a citizen journalist," he told me in a recent interview. He's right. Investors know it, too: Shares of old-media giant New York Times (NYSE: NYT  ) have lost more than 75% in the past year, and Gannett (NYSE: GCI  ) is down more than 90%.

Nationally, newspapers are dying, including my hometown's The Rocky Mountain News. Twitter is helping to fill the void. Or at least, it's helping those creating technology to fill the void. Outside.in is an interesting, if creepy, example. The company uses a series of algorithms to map tweets and blog posts by location, automating the process of hyperlocal newsgathering.

No, a conversation aggregator!
And these are just two opportunities for Twitter. Selling access would be an even better idea. Twitter, like no other service before it, has the capacity to aggregate conversations.

Conversational intelligence would be worth plenty to anyone interested in microtargeting. Amazon and Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) are obvious choices, sure, but any consumer service would qualify. Imagine Twitter as the recommendations engine for Sirius XM (Nasdaq: SIRI  ) . Not only would it make for a more engaging experience -- listen to what you and your friends are talking about -- but it would also be a thumb to the eye of would-be rival Pandora.

Writer Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch calls Twitter a collection of thought streams. I say it's better than that; it's the world's greatest focus group, a conversational zeitgeist that's many times more valuable than what Facebook captures because the mosaic is created in real-time.

Which brings me back to Google. The Big G, too, has a finger on the zeitgeist, thanks to its search engine. What it lacks is real-time data. Twitter would change that, and consequently improve its ad targeting.

But that's so ... boring.

I'm a rebel investor. As a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers team, I follow rebellious businesses and business models. Twitter is a rebel; it can change almost any industry it wants to change. All Williams, Stone, and fellow co-founder Jack Dorsey need is the time to figure out which one.

Leave them alone, Google. We'll all be better off if you do.

Dell is an Inside Value pick. Amazon and Netflix are Stock Advisor selections. Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Try any of these Foolish services free for 30 days. There's no obligation to subscribe.

Tim had stock and options positions in Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy, thanks to a little too much caffeine, is twittering. Literally.


Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2009, at 3:15 PM, crafal wrote:

    PLEASE FOOL!! DO NOT PUBLISH ANY MORE ARTICLES ON SIRI. I just can not stand that everytime I check the SIRI stock, I see 10+ articles from these guys, one good one bad, make up your F"n MIND!! You either like it or don't, make a stand, become a man, and stop clogging the financial market with your crap opinions that have 0 credibility. You dish out articles every 5 minutes and hope to strike a win with someone. PLEASE LET SOMEONE BUY YOU SO THEY CAN CHANGE YOUR DUMB A** MENTALITY. The problem might be that no one wants to buy you since you are so aggressive and dumb and just make a bad name for yourself everytime you comment on any stock. I hope there are no bonuses coming to any of you!! God Bless these Morons at Motley Fool.

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2009, at 3:27 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    Hello crafal,

    >>I see 10+ articles from these guys, one good one bad, make up your F"n MIND!!

    Sorry, but no, that's not how we work. We are not the Borg. Each Fool writer is independent and our views differ.

    In this case, I believe that Sirius XM -- a minor piece of this story -- would benefit from the sort of conversational intelligence supplied by Twitter. You are, of course, welcome to disagree but I'm going to keep on writing exactly what I think investors need to hear.

    Foolish best wishes,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2009, at 8:19 PM, Skysclear wrote:

    ..TIM..What's your point?

    is it THIS?..When you mention RICK.."No, a conversation aggregator!

    And these are just two opportunities for Twitter. Selling access would be an even better idea. Twitter, like no other service before it, has the capacity to aggregate conversations...".. Or THIS?.."Writer Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch calls Twitter a collection of thought streams. I say it's better than that; it's the world's greatest focus group, a conversational zeitgeist that's many times more valuable than what Facebook captures because the mosaic is created in real-time.

    Which brings me back to Google. The Big G, too, has a finger on the zeitgeist, thanks to its search engine. What it lacks is real-time data. Twitter would change that, and consequently improve its ad targeting..."

    How nice 'Fool' Gave you your very OWN Form on their Blog .. for a HUGE AD.. and was it for FREE?

    Ohhh.. bet you think you are getting to someone!

    ( maybe the 'Doughnuts' on your Fan sight!!!)

    LOL.. You KIDS.. you sleigh me!!!

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2009, at 9:38 PM, Sirxm wrote:

    Listening to Motley Fool comments is meant for fools.

    I wish Motley Fool would get lost.l

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2009, at 9:42 PM, Sirxm wrote:

    The many Motley Fool comments regarding SIRUS/XM just help the manipulators to manipulate the stock price.

    I still think there should be an SEC investigation into the trading of the stock. I think all long time holders of shares in SIRUS/XM will agree with me.

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2009, at 9:44 PM, Sirxm wrote:

    For those of you who are curious about the Fool username it is not the name of yours truly.

  • Report this Comment On March 23, 2009, at 7:48 PM, invsetorduck wrote:

    Haha-- You guys at MF crack me up, still pumping Twitter, the next Netscape. Here's a hint, if you like it, and your avg demographic here likes it, its probably dead or dying... The web's next big hit, Myspace and Youtube? Facebook and Vimeo and Hulu show that niche quality will win out as users flee the masses of advertisers and gimmicks. Twitter, already being inundated by Spam, is creating a huge backlash by its very fans, because you use such gand terms as "zeitgeist" to describe a mundane un-monetized product, [1 bil? Hehe, show me the money Tim] doesn't make it so.... I just checked your Tweets, they are as boring as mine buddy, which is the default problem with Twitter, do you really read all your 1000+ followers?

    http://current.com/items/89891774/supernews_twouble_with_twi...

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