AdCause Lets Twitter Users Donate to Charities -- and Twitter

Still Seeking a Business Model, And So Are (Some) of its Users

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Another start-up promising to connect Twitter users to advertisers has launched, but this one comes with a twist that might make "followers" feel less like they're being pimped out to the highest bidder.

AdCause, which launched two weeks ago, allows Twitter users to donate a percentage of the proceeds from sponsors to the charity of their choice. But here's the punchline: One of those "charities" is Twitter.

Yes, you can not only donate your tweet-stream ad revenue to the American Red Cross, but also to Twitter founders Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams and Biz Stone. "It's going to be fun to deliver Twitter a big fat check," said founder Andy Arnott.

For all its popularity, Twitter is still casting about for a revenue model, but its execs feel confident enough they'll find one that they passed up a reported $500 million all-stock (or mostly stock) acquisition offer from Facebook last fall.

The idea behind AdCause is to allow Twitter users to sell their followers to advertisers without feeling so slimy about it. "If I knew that ad was at least partially going to a good cause I could probably swallow that," Arnott said.

So add AdCause to Magpie and TwittAd, which are already trying to match advertisers with popular members of the tweet-sphere. Interesting back story on TwittAd: Arnot initially registered (one "T") and had planned to use the name for his company, but TwittAds registered the trademark first. (one "T") still refers to AdCause, but Arnott says the two are nearing an amicable settlement.

All three have different approaches to the integration of ads. Magpie contextually inserts ads into Twitter streams that have certain keywords or themes (a bakery might buy all available Twitter-ers discoursing on food). TwittAd allows Twitter-ers to post their account for advertisers to purchase, including a banner on the Twitter users' profile page.

Arnott's service has been live two weeks, and he's still working out the bugs, but he says more than 400 Twitter users have signed up. "Charity is core to the product," he said, "but I want to make a living off of this. Don't get me wrong."

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