After Twitter suspended its $8 verification plan early last month, just days after its initial launch, it’s now planning to restart the program once again, though with one significant tweak.
we’re relaunching @TwitterBlue on Monday – subscribe on web for $8/month or on iOS for $11/month to get access to subscriber-only features, including the blue checkmark ???? pic.twitter.com/DvvsLoSO50— Twitter (@Twitter) December 10, 2022
That’s right, users that sign up on an iOS device will have to pay $11 per month - or $132 per year - to get their own blue checkmark, or alternatively, you can pay $8 per month if you sign up on the web.
Because Twitter, evidently, has worked out that Apple’s 30% in-app payment tax will cut into the potential profits from the program too much, so rather than trying to work out an alternative system, or maybe give people even more for their dollar, Twitter’s instead looking to pass on the tax directly to users.
So if you sign up on iOS, you’ll be paying a 37% mark-up, for absolutely nothing extra.
Why would anyone do that? I don’t know, why would anyone sign-up to get a blue checkmark at all? But some people will – while as Twitter notes you’ll also, maybe, get access to these add-on benefits sometime in future:
- Tweets from verified users will be in replies mentions and search – The plan here is that in order to incentivize take-up of the option, Twitter will list tweets from paying subscribers higher, effectively limiting the exposure of tweets from those who can’t/won’t pay. Which, incidentally, is what Elon and his conservative pals are currently fuming over Twitter doing to others in the past, and as we’ve noted previously, given that the vast majority of people don’t tweet, not sure how much of a lure this is.
- Twitter Blue subscribers will see half the ads – Maybe. Elon promised this as a feature of his new Blue plan at the beginning, but various commentators and internal advisors have since noted that this might not be workable due to the impact it would have on Twitter’s ad revenue, versus the income they might get from subscriptions. Essentially, this will only be offered if enough people sign-up for Twitter Blue. As such, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
- Blue subscribers will be able to post longer videos – Elon has also repeatedly flagged his plans to add more YouTube-like video posting options, which would mean that people no longer have to post YouTube clips, as they could host the videos on Twitter itself. Again, this might be a take-up based element, as the added cost of hosting longer videos, if people do start doing so, will stack up pretty quick.
Other than that, you get access to Tweet editing, 1080p video uploads, reader mode, and a blue checkmark – though importantly, this will now come after your account has been reviewed.
In this revamped $8 verification process, Twitter will specifically be looking to stamp out the impersonation issues that marred the initial launch, with a new set of parameters designed to ensure that people can’t just buy a blue tick, change their name to a brand, and dupe people by masquerading as the official business account.
Under the new system:
- Twitter will verify the phone number and profile name of each account before assigning a blue checkmark
- If you change your Twitter handle, display name or profile photo after you’ve been given a blue checkmark, you’ll temporarily lose the blue tick until your account is reviewed by Twitter
- Twitter is also adding gold checkmarks for official brand accounts, and gray ticks for ‘government and multilateral’ accounts, as we recently reported (which will also mean that the odd-looking ‘official’ checkmarks will be removed again next week)
- Twitter’s also working on a system that would enable brands to assign a branded indicator to employee accounts, as another means of official verification, on top of the blue tick (though this has not been mentioned in today’s re-launch announcement)
In combination, Twitter’s hoping that these additional measures will ensure that the system isn’t abused by pranksters and activists looking to dupe people, and in theory, it should work to limit abuse. The key challenge, then, will be the labor time required for manual review, and how Twitter plans to tackle this, especially if they’re going to have to manually check every time a blue checkmark account changes its profile image.
It seems like a lot of extra work, with a lot fewer moderation staff. But this is the plan that Twitter’s going with, in the hopes that the program will lure enough people to then make it a viable pathway to both combat bot profiles in the app, and generate significant revenue, and reduce its reliance on ad spend.
But it won’t.
You can take that as a criticism of Elon Musk and his ‘free speech’ idealism if you want, but the fact is that Twitter’s going to need tens of millions of people to sign up to this scheme, paying for little more than a graphic on their Twitter account, in order for it to achieve its stated goals.
As I’ve previously noted:
- If Twitter wants to get subscriptions to contribute 50% of its overall revenue, as Musk has stated, it’ll need more than 24.6 million users to sign on to pay $8 per month for a blue tick (even with the new iOS price point)
- If Twitter wants to use this as a means to ‘verify all the humans’, so that only bot accounts are the ones that don’t have a blue tick, you’d think it’ll need something in the vicinity of 75% of its total user base to sign-up for it to be effective - or around 178 million users paying $8/$11 each month
- A key problem - the majority of Twitter users are outside the US, where this monthly charge will be a lot more cost-prohibitive. This is especially true in India, where most of Twitter’s growth has come from over the past three years. India now has 18.8m users, making it Twitter’s third biggest audience market, and while Twitter has also flagged variable pricing by region, even $1 per month could be too high for developing markets
As you can see, there are some significant obstacles and benchmarks for the program. And while Elon himself seems optimistic, there’s just no way that Twitter’s going to see these levels of take-up, especially now that it’s had to increase the price on iOS, adding either more cost or more friction to the process.
For comparison, Twitter Blue peaked at 100k sign-ups, even with tweet editing as an add-on update, one of the most requested social media features of all time. That’s equivalent to 0.04% of Twitter’s userbase. Snapchat+, a comparable subscription offering, providing similar incentives, has been taken up by 0.41% of Snap users.
If Twitter gets two million users to sign-up to this updated Blue plan, that would be huge; if it gets 10 million, that would be massive. And yet, it would still be way, way short of the numbers required to reach its intended goals.
Maybe this is just the start, maybe Twitter can sweeten the deal over time, and get more people paying, and maybe, possibly, this could be a viable pathway towards Musk and Co.’s aims.
But right now, I just don’t see it.
We’ll find out, either way, over the coming months.