Magpie is troubling: “Allow us to embed our customers’ messages (aka spam?) in your Twitter timeline and earn money. Crass and inauthentic. Hoping anyone who signed up to have their Twitter feed hijacked by advertisers/spammers is thinking twice – Magpie will only work with adoption. I learned about this “service” from a post at ReadWriteWeb: “It’s so revolting and pitiful that it’s kind of sad.”
Should this really bother me? Well, yeah – I’ve invested much of the last two decades in my life online, and some significant percentage of that time evangelizing for an Internet that doesn’t go where commercial television, ultimately, went: ads interspersed with content. We’re not even sure that advertising works, certainly less so than before. At least with placement services like Google the ads have been subtle and generally out of the way. A redundant ad message popping up on every third tweet at Twitter would be rather completely unsubtle, potentially killing the goose.
In my life as a consultant, much of what I do is advise how to use the web to meet various business goals, and that’s often about making money, including sales, marketing, and advertising. If someone like Apple or Skype (users of the Magpie service) asked me about feeding canned ad messages into Twitter via Magpie, I would say “you’ll piss people off.” The weird and unfortunate thing about this kind of inauthentic brute force advertising is that, while it often does piss people off, it also somehow manages to increase sales. If statistics didn’t show that result, nobody would do it. All advertising would be tasteful and wonderful, authentic and well-placed. It’s a dilemma.
(In case you’re wondering about the title of this post, it’s a reference to the once-famous cartoon magpies.)