Looks are everything for Twitter as it goes in search of profits

More than 190 million visitors per month isn't bad for a web phenomenon that is widely criticised for being inconsequential, ephemeral and narcissistic. But despite the huge popularity of Twitter, which scores 370,000 new users every day, making money out of its customers has proved more of a challenge – until yesterday, when the social network unveiled a new look that will have advertisers salivating.

The changes, which will hit all users' screens over the next few weeks, see a two-pane layout replacing the straightforward list of tweets; the second pane can perform a number of functions, but the most significant is displaying media content relating to that tweet without the user having to visit another website.

Yesterday's launch was, according to Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, "not for the sake of advertisers". But the redesign will excite marketeers traditionally inhibited by the site's stripped-back look. Twitter may finally be on the brink of demonstrating why $160m [£103m] of venture capital has been ploughed into the company so far.

Twitter's popularity – much like Google's – has been built on its simplicity. You post a message, or a link to a website, and anyone bothering to pay attention will see it. If they want to, they can reply. Easy. But as Twitter has grown and new uses have been found for it by individuals and organisations, there has been a heavy reliance on third-party services that help to organise and display Twitter-related data in more user-friendly ways.

Applications such as TweetDeck or Seesmic help fit more information on one screen; it could be an image-hosting service like yFrog or Twitpic; or devices that shortened web addresses such as is.gd that help squeeze long URLs into Twitter's 140-character limit. In effect, a whole industry has grown up around enhancing Twitter and addressing its shortcomings. Williams himself admitted to shortcomings at yesterday's launch, and this revamp is a bold attempt to persuade the estimated 22 per cent of users who tweet without visiting the site itself that it is time to come back.

No wonder advertisers are eager; thus far, marketing messages on the service have been restricted to "promoted tweets" (the opportunity for a company's tweet to appear at the top of Twitter search results) and "sponsored trends" (corporate branding of a topic that's getting a lot of attention). Even these have been shown to be powerful; Coca-Cola's recent foray into sponsored trends saw them achieve 86 million page impressions in 24 hours.

Twitter users are regarded as less passive than the average web user, and with more screen "real estate" now available to advertisers, their engagement is predicted to become more intense.

As the new-look Twitter gains traffic and collects more data about our clicking habits and interests, it will become even more valuable in the corporate world as advertisements can be targeted at users more specifically. The only danger Twitter faces is the risk of upsetting a significant proportion of its users who aren't concerned about commercial pressures on the company, and would rather have an ad-free experience.

Facebook's past blunders in particular have shown that our tolerance of prominent marketing messages can be low. Twitter has always prided itself on a gently-gently approach; the new-look site will be introduced slowly, with the opportunity to switch to the old interface if we wish. But a Twitter service that's so light on advertising can't last for ever; after all, a business without an income isn't a business at all.

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    1st Line Service Desk Analyst

    £27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

    Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

    £18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?