Twitter Selling Wine for a Good Cause

Twitter, the micro-blogging site with explosive growth over the past few years, is moving into a new and unusual venture: selling its own brand of wine. Instead of bolstering its bottom line, though, most of the revenues will go to charity. Popular with consumers, Twitter has also been increasingly embraced by the enterprise, with companies such as incorporating the Web site into their analytics and service platforms.

Twitter may not have stumbled yet on a strategy for monetizing its microblogging site-at least, not in the big-bucks way that would satisfy its investors-but it has figured out how to market its own brand of wine.

Partnered with San Francisco winery Crushpad, which bills itself as a place that enables "people with day jobs to make wine for both personal and economic reasons," Twitter has started selling Fledgling Wine. The brand's logo, perhaps contrary to expectations, is not Twitter's baby-bird icon. Nor is Twitter offering the vino to help boost its own bottom line; the intention, along with most of the sales revenue, is for charity.

"The Fledgling Initiative aims to make awesome wine for the benefit of Room to Read, a non-profit organization extending literacy and educational opportunities worldwide," reads the opening text of the Fledgling Wine Web site. "Each case sold will provide approximately 60 local language children's books and promote education in the world's poorest regions."

A standard 750ml bottle of 2009 Fledgling Pinot Noir or 2009 Fledgling Chardonnay sells for $20. A 12-bottle case sells for $240. For every bottle sold, $5 will be donated to Room to Read. Those who want to donate to the cause without raising their blood-alcohol level can donate through the site.

According to Fledgling's Twitter feed (2,867 followers, 6 following, 2 tweets), the first bottles were sold at 5 a.m. EST to "a nice chap in Brooklyn."

"The Fledgling Initiative embodies two things that are at the core of Twitter's mission: providing access to information and highlighting the power of open communication to bring about positive change," Twitter creative director Biz Stone and CEO Evan Williams wrote on the Fledgling Wine site. "The efforts of Room to Read will benefit literacy, and in doing so they'll allow Twitter to grow. Because if you can't read you can't Tweet."

Twitter's actual growth has not followed the traditional startup model. While many Web sites quickly attempt to monetize through advertising, Biz Stone suggested at the Reuters Global Technology Summit in May that advertising dollars will not fuel Twitter's future expansion.

"[Advertising is] just not quite as interesting to us," Stone told an audience at the Summit via video link from San Francisco, where the private company is based. "There are no people at Twitter who know anything about advertising or work in advertising."

Instead, Twitter may eventually offer tools and business services in order to generate income, including paid commercial accounts to users. Earlier in 2009, Microsoft sponsored a Twitter-hosted site, ExecTweets, which collated the micro-bloggings of some of the nation's top executives.

The enterprise has also begun to embrace Twitter and its capability for real-time monitoring of Web conservations. added Twitter to its Service Cloud, allowing customer-service personnel to "Search Twitter for Service Issues" with a tab on the end-user dashboard. By monitoring public conversations about a product and sending messages about particular service issues, the functionality aims to head off problem cases still in a nascent stage.

Twitter's growth-in March 2009, the service reportedly had 9.3 million users-has also led to a flurry of speculation over its possible takeover by a larger firm. In 2008, Facebook reportedly made a $500 million acquisition offer, and in March there was rampant speculation that Google would launch its own bid.

However, Stone has repeatedly asserted that, while Twitter continues to discuss "a variety of subjects" with other companies, its short-term goal is to remain an "independent company." Twitter reportedly entered talks last week with either Microsoft or Google over a licensing deal, but details of any such negotiations remain nebulous.