A few months ago, when Twitter acquired Scroll, a New York-based startup, the only question that remained was how they would integrate the service into the primary Twitter offering. That question got answered yesterday when the company introduced Twitter Blue, a premium offering in its major markets, including the United States. (Twitter Blue was available in Canada and Australia as part of its iOS app.)
For $2.99 a month, you get access to ad-free and paywalled content. You can undo tweets and get access to many beta features, such as uploading longer-length videos. You can pin some private direct message conversations to the top of the “messages folder.” There are some other customization options as well on Twitter’s iOS app. However, it is the reading part that is the main show of this premium offering.
When you subscribe — I did — on the web, you get an additional icon in the right-hand menu that says Top Articles. When you go to Top Articles, you see a list of much-shared articles shared by those whom you follow.
I also like the “conversation” panel that opens up when you highlight the article before clicking on the link to read it off-Twitter. At present, the default timeline is articles shared over the past 24 hours. I would love to get the option to select eight, or 12 hours, as folks tend to share articles more frequently on Twitter. In short, the Twitter team has successfully integrated the old Nuzzel that came to Twitter as part of the Scroll acquisition.
The ad-free reading offerings thus far underwhelm me — there were three articles in my entire 24-hour “top articles” timeline. They have agreements with quite a few big publishers, but they are the lowest common denominator publishers. If you happen to have specific interests or follow a narrower group of accounts on Twitter, you might be out of luck. For me, this lack of quality sources is the weak link in the new offering — but let’s hope they can overcome this challenge.
Despite the shortcomings, I am willing to try this new offering, at least for six months. After all, like most of us, I don’t want to sign-up for individual magazine or newspaper subscriptions. I don’t want to deal with micro-payments for articles, newsletters, and other content worth our attention. It remains to be seen what percentage of Twitter users are more open-minded and equally open with their wallets.
After all, the bigger question remains unanswered: What percentage of 397 million Twitter users will pay $36 a year for these premium features. The revenues garnered from a million subscribers for the premium service will be a mere rounding error in the company whose revenues were $3.72 billion in 2020. So, success for Twitter Blue means many millions of subscribers. It won’t be easy — it is hard to get people to pony up for something they perceive they have been getting for free.
Nevertheless, Twitter should stick with it because, in time, people will start to see value in this premium upgrade. I like the new direction Twitter is taking. “In much the same way Spotify has become a place where people experience music, Twitter could be the place where we discover, share, and consume news and other written content,” I wrote in an essay, What Twitter can learn from Spotify, last year.
Many of Twitter’s new changes, such as introducing newsletters and now the Twitter Blue, show that Twitter is finally embracing its destined place in the news & information ecosystem.
November 10, 2021, San Francisco