Would you pay for an upgraded Twitter? That’s a question Twitter will soon answer when it rolls out a new subscription service that will present users with an expanded feature set available only to paid subscribers. This is a different offering than Twitter’s previously announced Super Follow subscription plans, which will allow users to subscribe to individual creators for access to exclusive content. Instead, the new subscription service will target Twitter’s power users who tweet frequently enough or otherwise engage with the product to the point that they’d be willing to pay to do even more.
Twitter has already broadly hinted at its forthcoming subscription plans, having told Bloomberg in February that it would “research and experiment” with ways to diversify its revenue beyond advertising in 2021 and beyond. Twitter ads are 85% of revenue, but Twitter often faces slowing or flat user growth. That has led the company to consider new ways to extract more money from existing users. It told Bloomberg this plan “may include subscriptions” and other approaches that gave businesses and users access to “unique features.”
It also reiterated its interest in subscription products during its Twitter Analyst Day later that same month, when it said it would “experiment with subscriptions.” And its Twitter Investor Relations account tweeted in March that it would “test subscription products in public.”
But so far, the only subscription product Twitter has fully detailed is Super Follow, also announced during its Analyst Day event. It had not specifically spelled out what its other subscription tests would look like, nor provided any sense as to when they would arrive beyond tests that would begin rolling out “over the course of this year.”
What we know of Twitter’s efforts on this particular front doesn’t come from official sources.
Instead, it comes from app researcher Jane Manchun Wong, who earlier this month scooped not only Twitter’s premium subscription offering itself but also its name and pricing. She found the forthcoming subscription plan, currently dubbed “Twitter Blue,” would cost $2.99 per month and would include access to new features like bookmark collections and the Undo Tweets feature that Twitter had previously confirmed to CNET were being tested.
However, when tech news site The Verge asked Twitter to comment on Twitter Blue, the company declined.
This week at J.P. Morgan’s Global Technology, Media, and Communications conference, Twitter spelled things out a bit more clearly.
Instead of vaguely hinting at forthcoming “experiments” or tests that gave “people and businesses of all sizes access to unique features,” as it said before (gotta love that corporate speak!), Twitter CFO Ned Segal told investors its new “premium service” would be aimed at people who use Twitter’s service — “and they pay us for it.”
Segal noted this premium offering was one of the two types of subscriptions that Twitter had in the works, the other being Super Follows.
The premium service also sounded less of an “experiment” than when Twitter had discussed its plans before. In earlier statements, it had seemed as if Twitter was embarking on some kind of research project to see if there was even any demand for a Twitter premium subscription at all. The wording the company used in the past didn’t make it clear how seriously this effort was.
Segal said the company would offer more info about Twitter’s premium service in the coming months. It would test the service to learn more, but then it would “ultimately roll it out to people around the world,” he said.
That’s no “experiment” — that’s a roadmap.
Twitter won’t replace the core, free product it offers, in case you were concerned. He cleared that up, too. It will provide premium features “on top of [Twitter’s] continuous improvement mindset around the free version of the service that everybody will continue to have access to.”
Twitter shouldn’t have to tweak the new offering too much, as it’s already done a lot of pre-launch research on what features users are most interested in, including via user base surveys back in 2020. Not surprisingly, the Undo Tweet option — as close as we’ll ever get to an “edit” button, was among those features users wanted most.
While Twitter didn’t really say anything we didn’t know already, thanks to assumptions, leaks and vague confirmations in the past, it’s nice to see it spelled out in a more straightforward manner as a forthcoming product meant for users worldwide.
“We want to make sure that we have a durable business for our benefit, but also for the benefit of people who use the service,” Segal said.
The question now remains whether Twitter’s users will actually subscribe.