Twitter Explores New Tweet Subscription Options, Paid Tools for TweetDeck

Would you pay to read the top tweets from your favorite accounts?

That’s one possibility that Twitter appears to be exploring, as it looks to new ways to maximize its revenue opportunities despite sluggish growth, and amid rising internal pressure from investor groups.

According to a new report from Bloomberg, Twitter’s considering several new subscription and revenue options to reduce the company’s reliance on ads, while also providing more incentive to keep top users tweeting more often.

As per Bloomberg:

“At least one idea being considered is related to “tipping,” or the ability for users to pay the people they follow for exclusive content, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are internal. Other possible ways to generate recurring revenue include charging for the use of services like Tweetdeck or advanced user features like “undo send” or profile-customization options.”

Twitter has been exploring these options for some time – last July, Twitter sent some users a survey which asked them about a range of potential options that they might be willing to pay for in the app.

As you can see here, among those potential options were ‘undo send’ (to recall tweets within 30 seconds) and custom color tools for profiles, so most of these ideas have been at least in discussion for some time. But they now appear to be gaining momentum once again – which could suggest that Twitter’s Q4 numbers, due this week, are not going to show a significant increase in user growth. 

Twitter has been on an acquisition spree of late, buying up visual creation platformsdesign and production teamsimproved audio discovery tools, and most recently, newsletter creation platform Revue. These new elements point to potential product advancements – but as we noted recently, they could also point to internal pressure, and Twitter’s need to advance in line with rising expectation from investor groups.

Early last year, investment firm Elliott Management Corp acquired more than $1 billion in Twitter shares in a move to gain more power on the Twitter board. It then launched an internal campaign to oust CEO Jack Dorsey. Elliott’s contention at the time was that Dorsey was not the best person to lead Twitter due to his co-leadership of rising payments company Square and his poor track record on innovation, which was potentially holding Twitter back. 

Eventually, Dorsey was able to negotiate a stay of execution with the Elliott investor group. Dorsey would be given time to implement a new growth strategy, and Elliott’s group would gain Twitter board seats, giving it a more in-depth view of the platform’s performance. Then COVID-19 hit, and the subsequent uncertainty around it, and the US election, seemed to give Dorsey some more breathing room. But as we move into the next stage, beyond the chaos of 2020, the Elliott team’s challenge is clearly, once again, front of mind for Twitter, which puts more pressure on the company to forge a more profitable way forward – which could be behind the sudden increase on momentum around both acquisitions and potential new product additions.

But would users pay for any of these features?

Twitter has explored the possibility of charging for TweetDeck before, and Twitter Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour did recently note that the tweet management platform is undergoing a significant refresh.

That could be worth investigating – if Tweetdeck were to add more advanced analytics tools, for example, that could be worth additional investment. If it were a Twitter version of Facebook’s CrowdTangle, many business users would be willing to pay a monthly subscription fee.

Worth noting too that Twitter removed its Audience Insights data element from Twitter Analytics early last year. A platform that incorporated these previously available data elements, along with more advanced discovery tools, could be a valuable resource – which, again, businesses would pay for, no doubt.

Tipping or subscriptions also ties into the acquisition of Revue, and providing a clearer path to monetization for creators, from which Twitter could take a cut – though it’s difficult to imagine what, exactly, users would be willing to pay for in addition to regular tweets.  

Would people pay to see some people’s exclusive tweets? Maybe.

Among other possibilities, Twitter’s also exploring a paid, ad-free option, like YouTube, as well as subscriptions for higher quality video, paying for verification (unlikely given its recent verification overhaul) and other potential profile customization options.

Some of these things would clearly see some level of interest, but Twitter also needs to consider sustainability, while also ensuring that any advanced options, like more data in TweetDeck, don’t undermine its other data sales tools. 

But there are options to consider, and again, the acquisition of Revue may well highlight new ways that Twitter can monetize its platform. It’s impossible to say whether people would pay until we know, exactly, what Twitter would be asking them to pay for, and it’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, Twitter has to say on this in its coming earnings report. 

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