David Prosser: New hope for Twitter

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Outlook There has been widespread scepticism about the ability of social networking sites such as Twitter to turn a profit, despite their own claims and the mega valuations investors have put upon them. But a little-noticed update from the computer giant Dell may just confound the doubters.

It reports that its presence on Twitter, which began three years ago, has earned it revenues of a little over $6m so far this year. In the scale of its £12bn revenues in the first quarter of the year alone, that's a pretty trifling sum, but look at this from Twitter's point of view – it charged Dell not a penny for a presence on a site that turned out to be a valuable source of income. Why should it not charge commercial users of the scale of Dell to use its technology and networks? Why shouldn't other social networking sites, notably Facebook, do the same?

In the current economic environment, the advertising-based business model that many of these sites have been pursuing does not look to be, on its own at least, a route to profitability. But offering premium account services to businesses profiting from piggy-backing on the network could be lucrative. It looks the closest thing yet to a realistic hope of genuinely monetising Twitter and the rest.