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Everyone and their mother is trying to tap into the real time feed of Twitter. And many brands are attempting to make money from real time. While search giants like Google and Microsoft are encorporating real-time information into their search results, Huffington Post went straight for the content feed this week, encorporating tweets onto the sites pages and possible serving ads alongside.
But here's the catch. They didn't ask for permission first. And tweeters were less than pleased.
At some point Monday night, messages from a wide variety of Twitter users appeared on Huffington Post, prompting ValleyWag to posit: Why Did the Huffington Post Republish All of Twitter Last Night?
Huffington Post founding partner Jonah Peretti tells The Wall Street Journal that it was "a total misunderstanding."
Mario Ruiz, a spokesman for the company, goes on to say that “The Huffington Post did not ‘republish’ all of Twitter. Using Twitter’s API, we created a page where people could see user profiles — a standard practice.”
But it's not quite so simple. Ruiz says that “no more than 200 profiles showed on the page,” but the site set up URLs for individual tweeters. A search for any Twitter username on HuffPo ("http://www.huffingtonpost.com/twitter/[username]") gets the following error message:
“HuffPost is building a directory to help our audience discover and follow the very best Twitter users. The feature is currently being tested and will launch in the near future. Our initial tests resulted in some confusion so we will do more testing before making it public. Thanks, HuffPost Tech Team.”
And that directory is likely to bring more advertising revenue to Huffington Post.
Until HuffPo takes this feature out of beta testing, it will be hard to know exactly what the company intends to do with Twitter feeds. But it's safe to assume that the political gossip site will try to make some money from the venture.
Twitter's now defunct Suggested Users list did a good job of inflating the follower numbers of many Twitter users by getting new users to automatically follow what appeared to be the most influential people using the service. Now, Twitter's Lists feature allows any user to create lists of Twitterers. While that service could be useful to many users, it's hard for the originator of the list to profit from that curation. As HuffPo makes much of its ad revenue by curating content, it makes sense that the site may try to make a profit from directing its readers toward select Twitter feeds.
But The Huffington Post has already caught flack for retaining most of its writers on an unpaid basis and earning ad revenue by posting content in full from other sites directly on its pages.
If HuffPo tries to curate real-time tweets on its site, it will have to get approval from more than just the leadership at Twitter. Twitter users may not be comfortable seeing their tweets served up alongside HuffPo's advertising. At least that's what happened this week. The Twittersphere was less than pleased at the notion of seeing their tweets on HuffPo.
As Twitter user SineadMcEneaney put it:
“Dear all of Twitter: The Huffington Post stole you last night. You may want to sue. That is all."