Twitter sets the stage for video ads

A new program, now in beta, allows for paid video content in people's feeds

With Twitter's promoted video program, brands can pay Twitter to include videos in their tweets.

With Twitter's promoted video program, brands can pay Twitter to include videos in their tweets.

Twitter is looking to boost its advertising business by letting more businesses pay to include video in their tweets.

The company on Tuesday announced the beta test of a new advertising program, called "promoted video." It will let brands upload video to the site inside their tweets, and measure the videos' reach through analytics, similar to how advertising already works for non-video formats on Twitter.

Twitter started as a site for tidy 140-character messages, but video advertising is a big move to connect marketers to customers. It comes as Twitter's arguably largest competitor, Facebook, also dips its feet into the lucrative video ad market.

Twitter is also improving the site's ability to let selected publishers and users post video without a price tag. "Video is an incredible storytelling medium," the company said in a blog post, "and we're thrilled to be giving brands, publishers and a subset of verified users the ability to share organic and promoted video on Twitter."

But it might also be jarring, at least at first, for Twitter's users. When the social network started allowing people to post photos in their tweets, some criticized the move for the clutter it introduced.

The video ads will build upon the company's Amplify program, which lets selected partners like Viacom, the BBC and McDonald's post their own video coupled with advertising content. With the new program, Twitter hopes to attract even more businesses.

The videos would appear in users' streams, but they would not start playing -- and advertisers would not be charged -- until the person clicks on them. Twitter has not yet set an exact length for the videos. About a hundred or so brands have already tested the program.

The market for digital video ads is heating up. In the U.S., spending on digital video advertising is expected to increase by more than 40 percent this year, to nearly US$6 billion, according to the research firm eMarketer. But it's still dwarfed by ad spending on television, which is expected to reach around $68 billion this year, eMarketer says.

Twitter's advertising business is already strong. The company more than doubled its sales in this year's second quarter, to $312 million. But the number of people using Twitter has not grown as strongly, and the company is looking for new ways to monetize its service.

Twitter uses a variety of criteria to determine which ads to display to users in their feeds, such as who they follow and how they tweet.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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