Successful social networking sites haven’t exactly found a plan to turn their popularity into reliable revenue. Twitter in Japan operates through a local partner, Digital Garage, that is launching a paid Twitter service there. Twitter users in Japan are able under this plan, to close their tweets to followers unless they pay up. Digital garage of course, gets a commission. Why does Twitter imagine that anyone would pay to read a tweet? The answer lies in the way the Japanese Internet industry is built.

To begin with, paying for online content is pretty much established in Japan. People access premium content through their cell phones regularly, and pay through their monthly mobile bills. Why, Internet on cell phones is even more popular in Japan than Internet on PC. Japan is also a considerably more celebrity-crazed culture than elsewhere, and people will happily pay to keep up with the latest on their favorites. They don’t have to be international superstars or anything; a Twitter recipe feed by a celebrity chef for example, attracts fanatical following. And value for money is somewhat easier to provide in the Japanese script; the Japanese script allows more information to be packed into 140 characters than does English.

Keeping up is much easier when there is a proper and official Twitter client to use on the cell phone, as there is in Japan. Twitter’s 2 million users in Japan can certainly give the paid model enough momentum. All eyes rest on this preliminary foray into turning social networking into a paying business model. Time will tell how successful it is.