The Associated Press, one of America's most venerable news organizations, is selling out its Twitter feed for the very first time.
And we can thank Samsung and CES for it. According to the AP, Samsung will be the first company to pay for Sponsored tweets inside their Twitter account, which currently boasts a little over 1.5 million followers.
The ads (sponsored tweets, or as the AP is referring to them, "innovative advertising") will pop up twice a day during CES, which is currently underway in Las Vegas. Each sponsored tweet from Samsung will be clearly labeled as a "sponsored tweet" and produced by "staff outside the AP newsroom."
And before you ask about this decision and how it could compromise the integrity of the AP as a credible news organization, don't bother. It doesn't, says the AP:
"The AP developed internal guidelines in recent months so that it may build new business models in the new media landscape without compromising its newsroom values and principles," said the organization in a statement.
"We are thrilled to be taking this next step in social media," said Lou Ferrara, the AP managing editor overseeing the newsroom social media efforts. "As an industry, we must be looking for new ways to develop revenues while providing good experiences for advertisers and consumers. At the same time, advertisers and audiences expect AP to do that without compromising its core mission of breaking news."
The AP has to make money, and they haven't been over the past couple of years. Hosting sponsored tweets inside your stream is nothing new around Twitter, but it is something new for the AP, who hasn't always had the most genial relationship with the internet and social media.
As John Herman at BuzzFeed points out, the AP and Samsung have struck their own agreement with these sponsored tweets. That means that they are bypassing Twitter's own Sponsored Tweets product, which allows businesses to pay Twitter to features their tweets, accounts, and hashtags.
Twitter has this to say about such third-party arrangements:
There are so many ways that people use Twitter to discuss the products they care about. In cases where these Tweets are paid or otherwise sponsored, any payment arrangements are the responsibility of the user and the sponsoring brand or service. These “sponsored” Tweets are not prohibited, provided they clearly disclose the nature of the sponsorship on Twitter, and do not otherwise violate the Twitter Rules.
However, sponsorship as a form of automated or mass-created affiliate advertising is not permitted on Twitter. This behavior is considered spam, and creates a misleading and potentially unsafe user experience. The guidelines in this article prohibit affiliate spam on Twitter, and provide guidance for users interested in included sponsored Tweets in their timeline.
So as long as the AP is hand-posting these sponsored tweets and not spamming the hell out of everyone, they're well within the law of Twitter. But that doesn't mean Twitter has to be happy about major account skirting their own product and making backdoor deals.