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No one's really interested in the Twitter IPO?

Saturday, 26 Oct 2013 | 7:00 AM ET

No one reads Twitter stories.

All right, some people do. Just not a lot. Not as many as would read a Ben Bernanke article or a Nouriel Roubini prophecy of doom.

It's true. We have all sorts of software (programs with names like Omniture and Chartbeat) that count visitors and Web traffic. They tell us what people are reading.

And it ain't about Twitter.

For example, this past week Twitter set the offering range for its IPO—big news that set our CNBC newsroom a-buzzing. In the end, though, that story didn't even bust our Top 10 for the day. Heck, even when we made it the featured story on the website, the best popularity rank it could sustain was third place, briefly. It went straight to 15th within the hour.

Just check out the above chart we whipped up comparing the traffic on the Twitter IPO story with our top stories on Thursday. People were much more interested in banking troubles and Mark Zuckerberg's real estate foibles.

The story is the same for other major Twitter-in-the-news days. It never breaks the Top 10. Now you could argue that the Twitter news simply coincided with news that was more important (like Zuck's living arrangements).

But when you compare the reader attention paid to Facebook and LinkedIn stories on their respective "big news" days leading up to their IPOs, the argument falls flat. They hit the Top 10 every time.

It's not just us, either. Our colleagues at other websites see it too. Like Owen Thomas, editor-in-chief over at ReadWrite.com:

All of which reinforces a Reuters poll this week indicating that 36 percent of the folks on Twitter don't actually use it.

That's concerning if you are contemplating the probable success of Twitter's IPO and subsequent profit-making ability.

Already Twitter is smaller than its main competition (215 million users at the time of its public IPO filing in early October, compared to Facebook's 1.15 billion).

Now if people aren't reading headlines about it and if, indeed, not that many people are really using it, then will it actually be a viable enterprise? Will it be able to attract ad dollars and make its stock respected on Wall Street, a la Facebook (rocky start and all)?

(Read more: The differences between Facebook and Twitter).

"Facebook is have to have; Twitter is nice to have," said Howard Anderson, founder of the Yankee Group and co-founder of Battery Venture Capital, in an interview. He noted that some advertisers will likely be interested in it and use it for specific purposes. "But it won't be must-see TV. It will be sometimes-watch TV."

Twitter kicks off IPO road show
The social media company is hitting the road ahead of its much anticipated initial public offering, reports CNBC's Kayla Tausche.

To their credit, sites like Facebook and Twitter already have the ability to slice and dice their audiences and charge advertisers prices based on the appeal of those particular pieces of audience.

"Social media has allowed advertisers to target in a manner that really hasn't been done before this easily," said Jon Stemmle, a professor of communication at the Missouri School of Journalism, in an answer to emailed questions. "When you enter your info for Facebook or Twitter, begin posting information, and follow other users, all of that can be tracked and then you can be targeted for any sorts of ads based on that data. Because of this, every social media platform is trying to figure out how to take that data and monetize it, especially on mobile platforms, which is where the majority of users are."

So if Twitter can shave off a particular user set—say, celebrities under the influence—and offer it to a certain high-end advertiser—perhaps a rehab service—it has a viable business model.

(Read more: Twitter IPO underpriced, says pro)

But not a unique one, since Facebook and others could conceivably deliver that audience too.

"If Twitter does not have a unique audience to differentiate its advertising product, the question then is: 'what is special about ads on Twitter?'," said Alessandro Bonatti, a professor specializing in online advertising strategy at the MIT Sloan School of Management, in an email exchange. "From this perspective, the outlook is also bleak: Twitter users (i) are very far from the point-of-purchase, and (ii) will therefore yield very noisy estimates of the returns to advertising."

So Twitter may not have an inherent advertising advantage and it appears to have less interest in its fortunes than the media hype would suggest.

Maybe all those folks skipping Twitter IPO headlines have it right.

Allen Wastler is managing editor of CNBC Digital. Ironically, given this article, you can follow him on Twitter @AWastler. You can catch his commentary here and on CNBC Radio. And check out his fiction.

Clarification:

This story has been updated to clarify the as-of date for Twitter's user figures.

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