It's time I came clean about the Twitter Premium accounts story I wrote a couple weeks ago. It's going to come out anyway, so I might as well get the truth out there before someone else tells their version.
Here's a quick recap of the public side of things. Almost two weeks ago, I wrote a story about Twitter implementing Twitter Premium accounts. The story spread quickly on Twitter and made the front page of Digg. It snagged quite a few BBelievers as well. Kevin Rose (tweet deleted), Steve Case and even the CEO of Twitter Evan Williams (tweet deleted) commented on it. At one point the story held three positions on the "trending topics" section of search.twitter.com.
The reaction from the Twitter community was mixed. Some thought it ruined the level playing field that Twitter had established. Others felt paid accounts were necessary for Twitter to maintain their insane growth. Others saw it for what it was, a satire story poking fun at a company without a business model. They laughed at the people believing the story, but maybe the joke was on them.
Within the last ten days, Twitter confirmed they will be implementing paid Twitter Pro accounts and a Twitter Concierge service. The timing seemed almost too convenient. Almost as if my story were a trial balloon sent up by Twitter to gauge response to paid accounts. The truth is, that's exactly what it was.
A couple months ago, I was contacted by Twitter CEO Ev Williams. He's followed BBspot for years and wondered if I could help them out with something new they were planning. He told me he respected my ability to craft stories that people would believe, and had an idea how that could be used for market research. They're a new company, and willing to take unconventional approaches.
He asked if I would be willing to write a story about paid Twitter accounts. He briefed me on the details, so that my story could be close enough to the truth to be believable, but he relied on me to sprinkle in some embellishments, so it wouldn't be taken too seriously in case the backlash was unbearable.
He hoped that my story could generate some instant feedback on the idea, so they could fine tune their offering. They hoped to avoid any backlash from the Twitter community as a whole. They value the community and realize it's the backbone of Twitter.
The story was more successful and believed by more people than we had anticipated, which bodes well for other companies using BBspot for trial balloons in the future. Some of the press was coordinated with Twitter, while other coverage was just serendipitous. I'll leave it to the reader to decide which was which (plus my NDA prevents me from revealing it anyway).
It was supposed to be kept secret, but I got some calls from reporters the last couple of days checking on the coincidental nature of the story, so I decided to come clean before it hit the press.
It's a tough economy, and I need to do what it takes to keep the dream alive. If that means pimping some companies for cash then that's what's going to happen. It's nothing different that networks or newspapers running stories on new products, or stories run as thinly-veiled press releases.
I run a fake news site for heaven's sake, but honesty is the one thing I value most about the site. I hope you all can understand. It feels good to get this off my chest. Thanks.