Just as the firestorm of controversy about ad-supported
bloggers begins to die down, Twitter is about to see a surge. Paid tweets are
on the way – and they’ll have some celebrities behind them.Hollymadison

Holly Madison (from “The Girls Next Door”) will be one of at
least 10 celebs to help roll out “SponsoredTweets.com”, a new service that will
let advertisers reach out to popular Twitter users and hire them to promote
products in 140 characters or less.

“The goal is to make this a platform that has a diverse base
of celebrities participating – everything from TV stars to sports celebrities
to sports teams and media properties,” says Ted Murphy, founder of the site.

Scheduled to go live on July 27, SponsoredTweets won’t be
exclusive to stars. Any Twitter user can sign up and set their price to tweet a
product. Advertisers will then contact users that interest them and make an
offer.

“The average Twitter user has less than 150 followers,” says
Murphy. “Celebrities have hundreds of thousands. Those turn into some pretty
big assets for the celebrities and we want to provide them with a tool to
monitize those.”

There’s a slippery slope by mixing ads with tweets, though.
Fans often see celebrity Twitter accounts as a way to communicate directly with
actors, musicians and sports stars. To see those personal missives mixed with
ads could damage that relationship.

There’s also the shadow of the paid blogging controversy.
Many bloggers who acted as journalists have acknowledged accepting cash to
positively promote a product. In this case, how will fans be able to
differentiate between a casual mention of a product in a tweet and a paid
endorsement?

Murphy says the ads will be clearly labeled.

“Everything in the platform – every tweet – has to be
disclosed,” he says. “What we’ve done is built in a software system that
enforces disclosure. We’re trying to bring a level of transparency to the
process.”

Perhaps so, but one of Twitter’s appeals for many people has
been its reputation as an Oasis from the ad clutter of the rest of the
Internet. Upsetting that balance could be a risky game.

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