The Financial Times is reporting that Twitter will include advertisements in users' message streams "according to people with direct knowledge of its plans."
The newspaper's site also said that Twitter is likely to launch a Groupon-like service to provide discount offers to Twitter users.
Twitter already offers "promoted Tweets" which are placed "at the top of some Twitter.com search results pages," according to a Twitter help page. The Tweets are labeled as "promoted" but "in every other respect they exist initially as regular Tweets and are organically sent to the timelines of their followers."
The difference between what the company now offers and what it is reportedly considering is that the new ads would be part of the user's regular Twitter stream among the Tweets of the people or organizations users follow.
Likely to generate complaints
I certainly respect Twitter's need to sell advertising. Without ads, the company couldn't stay in business -- unless it started charging people to send and read Tweets which isn't going to happen. But the question is whether they can come up with an advertising strategy that isn't intrusive.
Google, for example, has proven that it's possible to put clearly labeled ads on the side or above search results and on the side of a user's Gmail page without actually interrupting what the user is doing, That type of creative placement of ads has earned Google plenty of money without alienating its user-base. If Twitter winds up interrupting users with ads, the reaction will be loud, swift and not pretty.
I don't see any downside to a Groupon-like discount program as long as it's something people subscribe to or see outside of their regular Twitter stream.
Follow Larry Magid on Twitter: www.twitter.com/larrymagid