Legacy Twitter checkmarks are disappearing on April 1st, Twitter says, and in the future, the only way users will be able to get the coveted blue badge is by paying for a Twitter Blue subscription. That points to a big question for Twitter and owner Elon Musk: Will that nail finally drive more take-up of the social network’s premium tier?
So far, take-up has been fairly underwhelming. Since relaunching three months ago as a big push into non-advertising-based revenue, Twitter Blue has only picked up $11 million in mobile subscriptions, according to data from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower.
The $11 million figure is notable because Twitter is banking on Twitter Blue at a time when advertising — which traditionally has accounted for the vast majority of Twitter’s income — remains in rapid decline.
In part, that drop is due to the overall economy, which has pushed marketing spend down. But advertisers have also been hesitant to recommit to Twitter amid its rapid-fire changes, chaotic missteps and threats to general brand safety as Elon Musk rolled back earlier protections. Twitter has since tried to repair some of those relationships, including by way of partnerships with adtech companies DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science (IAS), for example, but it’s not yet clear to what extent revenue has improved as a result.
While $11 million is a small figure, we should caveat that this estimate does not cover web-based subscriptions. The firm also can’t break out who is paying for annual or monthly Blue subscriptions. The figures cover the 20 markets where Blue has been launched prior to this week. It wasn’t until yesterday that Twitter made the service available globally.
In the insights shared with TechCrunch, Sensor Tower estimates that Blue has more than 385,000 mobile subscribers worldwide on both iOS and Android. The U.S. is its largest market, with 246,000 subscribers spending around $8 million through their mobile devices.
“The loss of advertising demand, fueled both by broader macro uncertainty and Twitter-specific platform issues, has made alternative revenue streams quite appealing for the social media network,” said Abe Yousef, senior insights analyst at Sensor Tower.
It’s not clear how many users overall Twitter has currently, but as of Q2 last year, it said it had nearly 238 million monetizable daily active users (its own metric).
The company, according to multiple reports, has been bleeding advertisers since Musk acquired Twitter and took over as CEO. A report earlier this month from The Wall Street Journal said that earnings, dated December 2022, which Twitter shared with investors, had noted a 40% decline in revenue. Twitter had adjusted earnings because of it. To put the $11 million in Twitter Blue mobile subs into a revenue context, as a point of comparison, in Q2 2022, the last quarterly earnings statement Twitter released (when it was still a publicly traded company), advertising made up all but $100,000 of Twitter’s nearly $1.2 billion in revenue.
There are also questions about how recurring that $11 million will be over the coming months. Yousef told us Sensor Tower believes that annual subscriptions will be a “minimal” proportion of the $11 million.
“Social media users are typically less inclined to spend $100+ all at once versus $11 for 1-2 months to try the service out and see if they enjoy using it,” he pointed out.
Some are already not that impressed…
Twitter Blue originally launched in limited markets in 2021 as a service aimed at power users, with perks that might have only felt momentous to that group — bookmarking, a chance to “redo” a Tweet, ad-free reading of news articles and early access to experiments via Twitter Labs among them.
But under Musk, Blue’s taken on a different emphasis: it’s part of his strategy to rebuild the company’s revenue model. As such, the features — both those that are live plus those that Twitter promises are coming — feel more central to the mainstream Twitter experience.
In addition to badges, Blue users can edit tweets, upload larger videos, have a “reader” view for longer threads and more. It also promises (but has yet to launch) fewer ads and more visibility for Blue users in replies.
U.S. Twitter users on mobile devices had spent nearly $1.8 million on Twitter Blue subscriptions in its first-month post-relaunch in December, the new data shows. This suggests that the service received over 160,000 mobile subscribers in the country in its first month of the relaunch, Yousef said.
But the company has some work to do when it comes to driving business in its strongest markets. In India, the company’s second-largest market by users after the U.S., Twitter launched Blue in February. Since then, Sensor Tower says that only $301,000 has been spent on Blue, working out to about 17,000 mobile subscriptions.
Yousef said India became Twitter’s sixth-largest mobile market in terms of in-app purchases following the local launch of Twitter Blue. The country represented Twitter’s eighth-largest mobile market for in-app purchases nearly 10 months before the company’s acquisition and Twitter Blue’s subsequent launch and relaunch, the analyst said.
Sensor Tower data is based on in-app purchases from Twitter’s mobile apps. The company does have other in-app purchases besides Twitter Blue. However, Yousef said that given the substantial increases examined in in-app purchase revenue post the relaunch of Twitter Blue, you can attribute most of that revenue to the subscription product, with boosted tweets and other in-app purchases providing very little in-app purchase revenue.
We have reached out to Twitter for a response to these numbers. We didn’t get a reply.
Additional reporting: Sarah Perez