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Would Anyone Actually Pay Money to Use Twitter?

Even a premium version?

an i phone screen showing twiiter and facebook icons

When I open Twitter in the morning—after a blessed twelve or so hours away from the social media platform that seems to have entirely consumed the public sphere, especially since Donald Trump became president—it feels like that scene in Star Wars where our trio of heroes is forced to jump into a garbage chute. I have to go there, for reasons, but it’s slimy, cramped, stinking, full of literal monsters that want to kill me and crush my soul, and it gets worse by the minute. And now Twitter founder Jack Dorsey thinks people will pay actual human money for that experience???


In a call with investors today where Dorsey was discussing the social media giant’s second-quarter earnings, he stated that users “will likely see some tests this year” of a subscription model for Twitter. Dorsey explained that there is “a really high bar for when we would ask consumers to pay for aspects of Twitter,” but also that the company is looking to diversify their sources of revenue. Right now Twitter makes money from advertising, but that revenue has plummeted in the most recent financial quarter thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn.

So the answer is … paid Twitter? Now, this doesn’t mean that all users would need to pay for Twitter, probably, but that the option would be there for some members to pay for a different kind of service. The words “premium experience” were not used but feel implied.

I’m not sure what a paid Twitter would look like though. No advertisements? I don’t think that would be attractive. The advertisements on Twitter are the least annoying thing on the platform and are pretty innocuous. Would a paid version have different content? Fancier? Would there be fewer Nazis and Russian bots on a paid version, because that would actually be nice!

There have been rumors about Twitter adding a paid tier for a while, and they hired developers for it under the hysterical codename “Gryphon” earlier this month. But no matter how Jack Dorsey tries to sell the idea that a paid version of Twitter could be “complementary” to their ad-based revenue streams, that doesn’t feel very convincing.

Like so many media companies, Twitter is struggling right now. And that feels wrong at first. Despite boycotts and blackouts, people stuck in quarantine are using social media A LOT … but the companies that pay to advertise on social media and other sites and thus keep them running are suffering huge losses right now due to the pandemic, which has a cascading effect on things like Twitter. That’s a long way of saying that “paid Twitter” might be just another consequence of the coronavirus and the US’s horrible mishandling of it that we didn’t anticipate.

And it also means that if Twitter gets that much more annoying because of this, it will, like most things nowadays, be Donald Trump’s fault.

(via: CNN Business, image: Pexels)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.