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Word on the Tweet: Twitter Will Hatch Subscription Service

By John P. Mello Jr.
May 17, 2021 4:52 PM PT
Twitter Blue premium subscription service

Twitter is adding some new powerful features to its repertoire that users will be able to access for a price.

The new premium offering, called Twitter Blue, will cost $2.99 a month and allow users to "undo" tweets, as well as create collections of their favorite tweets, according to independent researcher Jane Manchun Wong.

In Twitter Blue, when you start to send a tweet, an undo button will appear on the screen, giving you a few seconds to reconsider your action.

"That one feature is probably worth it for a lot of people who don't want to lose their job or their reputation because their fingers moved before they engaged their brain," Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, an advisory services firm in Bend, Ore. told the E-Commerce Times.

The new collections feature expands on Twitter's bookmark feature, which will save a bunch of tweets in chronological order. With collections, saved tweets can be managed as bookmarks are managed in a browser.

Reports of a Twitter premium service have been appearing for almost a year, but this is the first time images of the service have been posted, along with some details about the offering.

Twitter, through a spokesman, declined to comment for this story.

Show Me the Money

Wong also suggested Twitter could be looking into some kind of tiered premium arrangement, with Blue in one tier and other tiers including features from two recent Twitter acquisitions, Revue and Scroll.

Revue, is a newsletter publishing platform along the lines of SubStack, which allows writers to monetize their newsletters. Scroll is a subscription service that removes ads from news sites.

"Twitter seems to be in test mode to figure out how to best monetize its base," explained Nicole Greene, senior research director for digital marketing at Gartner.

"They've been testing different services, like charging influencers who are directly benefiting from the platform," she told the E-Commerce Times. "Putting the subscription charge on users would position them more as a content-news-entertainment channel, charging the people looking for content."

"It will be interesting to see if the user base is receptive to the service," she added. "They have a relatively active, but smaller user base than other social media platforms."

Precarious Business Model

Enderle noted that social networks in general are looking for alternatives to advertising for revenue.

"For most of the social networks, they have to realize by now their business model is at risk," he said. "So if they can get revenue from users as opposed to advertisers, they can better focus on the things that users need."

"The idea of mining customer information probably isn't going to be sustainable against the backlash by governments," he continued. "Social networks recognize that if they don't make some changes in favor of users, there's a good chance they're going to be fined into obsolescence, if not shut down."

"The trend against them is fairly significant with antitrust activities and the various investigations into their business models," he maintained.

"Changing over to a fee service means revenue and users are on the same side, as opposed to now where revenue and users are at cross purposes," he added.

Is It Worth It?

For Twitter, the question is does Blue offer enough value to enough users willing to cough up $3 a month for its offerings?

"The go-to model right now is subscriptions," explained Karen Kovacs North, director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities at the University of Southern California.

"But the subscription has to have value to the customer," she continued, "otherwise there's no reason to subscribe."

"For the vast majority of users, it's hard to imagine what might be worth $3 a month for Twitter," she told the E-Commerce Times.

"Because Twitter isn't an entertainment platform -- it's a news and information platform -- it's hard to imagine people will be willing to pay a monthly premium for the kind of service offered by Blue."

With the right kind of marketing, however, Enderle believes Blue could gain some traction with Twitter users. "The undo tweet function, which could be insurance against losing your job, is probably alone worth the $3 a month Twitter is charging," he suggested.

"I would argue, though, that the undo tweet thing should be part of the free service, not the fee service," he added. "If you're creating a problem for the user, you should fix that problem for free."

Need to Target Creatives

Ross Rubin, the principal analyst with Reticle Research, a consumer technology advisory firm in New York City, noted that features like undo and collections are designed to have a broad appeal, but added, "Most Twitter users wouldn't find enough value in those kinds of features to upgrade."

Twitter should focus on premium services for creatives on the platform, he argued. Although a small group, he told the E-Commerce Times, "They're important to Twitter because they're the kind of people who drive a lot of the traffic on the platform."

"Twitter really hasn't really done much to help those people monetize on the platform, as opposed to the things Instagram and YouTube are doing," he added.

Nevertheless, Ali Mogharabi, a senior equity analyst with Morningstar, in a recent research report, praised Twitter's subscription strategy.

"Besides advertising, we think the firm is taking the right steps toward implementing subscription models such as Super Follows, Revue, and others," he wrote.

"Twitter's Spaces also creates more monetization opportunities, although nearly every social media firm will be launching audio and community features," he added.

He also approved of the company's move away from its heavy dependence on brand advertising by enhancing its MAP product.

MAP, which has become easier to use for campaign creation, management, and performance measurement, in addition to its overall self-serve dashboard, has improved the platform's ability to attract small- and medium-size businesses that mainly run direct response ads, he wrote.

Management stated that first-quarter ad revenue generated from small and medium-size businesses grew by double digits from last year, he added.

"While these opportunities exist, the main question is about execution and whether Twitter can quickly roll out the new features," he noted. "We are becoming more confident given the improvements in MAP and the launch of Spaces, which is also now available on Android in addition to iOS."


John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government Security News. Email John.


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