All’s been quiet on the Twitter verification front for the last two weeks, but that looks like it’s about to change, with the company reportedly preparing to re-launch Elon’s $8 verification plan as early as tomorrow, including new price points, alternative color checkmarks for business and government accounts, and more.
First off, on the launch date – after Elon Musk initially flagged that Twitter’s $8 verification plan would be re-launched two weeks back, then delayed it, reportedly in order to work out how it might be able to wriggle out of paying Apple’s 30% in-app purchase tax, the company is now targeting this Friday, i.e. tomorrow, for the re-launch of the program.
And Twitter apparently hasn’t worked out how to avoid the Apple tax.
As per The Information:
“Twitter has informed some employees that it plans to change the pricing of its Twitter Blue subscription product to $7 if users pay for it through the web and $11 if they do so through its app for iPhones, according to a person briefed on the plans. Twitter had previously said it plans to charge $7.99 for Twitter Blue, which was then only available for purchase through Apple’s App Store.”
So instead of avoiding the Apple tax, Twitter’s just going to build it into the price for iOS users, with no word on a launch of the program on Android just yet (note: Google also charges a 30% in-app purchase tax for those generating over $1 million per year).
If that’s the option Twitter does eventually go with, you can imagine that it will also make a big push on web-based sign-ups. Meta tried similar last year, by launching a Stars store, where users can purchase packages of its creator donation Stars, and avoid Apple’s in-app fees.
The question, then, is whether people will be as keen to sign up in a separate app/website, and what impact that could have on take-up. It seems like a relatively simple way to get more money direct to Twitter, but it does add another level of friction, which could slow take-up.
On another front, Twitter’s also developing variable color shades for its new, alternative color verification badges, in order to cater to color-blind users.
Upcoming Twitter Verification Badges under different color blindness: pic.twitter.com/vcJoxhVrqD— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) December 8, 2022
As we reported recently, as part of the updated Twitter Blue rollout, business and government accounts will be given gold and gray ticks respectively, in order to avoid the issues with impersonation that were rife after the initial launch of the program.
That’ll essentially mean that people can’t just buy a verification tick, change their name and profile image to match a brand handle, then dupe users with false tweets, because people will now know that the actual official accounts will have a gold marker.
Which makes sense in theory, but it will require users to learn about what these new, alternative color badges mean.
It still feels like there’s a potential vulnerability there, but with the new checkmarks already in the process of being rolled out, it does seem like this is the solution Twitter’s going with, and that the new program is close to being re-opened to the public – maybe this week.
As reported by The Information, Musk has been very hands-on with the project, his first major initiative at the app. Elon’s view is that by enabling people to buy the much coveted blue checkmark for their account, that will attract big interest, and drive millions of sign-ups for the program, which will then enable Twitter to both reduce its reliance on ad revenue - and thus, its need to police speech in line with advertiser concerns – while also helping to tackle bots, because once everyone is signed up for a verified account, the only non-verified accounts left will be bot/spam peddlers.
Except, it’s unlikely to work how he expects.
As we’ve noted previously, social platform subscription offerings have never been popular, with fewer than 1% of users ever signing up for the previous version of Twitter Blue or Snapchat’s Snapchat+ package. Now, those are a lot different to Elon’s far more publicized blue checkmark program, and there’ll likely be a lot more people willing to pay to put a checkmark next to their name (reports suggest that more people signed up for Musk’s $8 checkmark plan in a few days than ever signed up for the previous iteration of Twitter Blue).
But even so, the likelihood of Elon getting enough users to sign-up to meet his goals for the program is seemingly not high.
Some basic estimates:
- If Elon wants to get subscriptions to contribute 50% of Twitter’s revenue, as he’s previously stated, he’ll need around 30 million users to sign on to pay $8 per month for a blue tick, depending on where they do so (given the above-noted change in pricing on iOS)
- If Elon wants to use this as a means to ‘verify all the humans’, you’d think he’d have to get upwards of 75% of Twitter’s user base signed on to make this even viable – which would currently equate to around 178 million users paying each month
Given the performance of previous social media subscription offerings, if Elon were to get a million paying subscribers for his $8 verification program, that would be a huge win, and if he gets five or ten million, that would be massive, a crazy level of success for the initiative.
But as you can see, that still wouldn’t even come close to shifting the needle on these key aims. And when you also consider that the majority of Twitter users are outside the US, and that it’s seeing most of its growth in developing markets, where paying $96 per year for a blue tick simply won’t be viable, it’s not gonna work. It’s just not.
In saying that, I’m also aware that the Elon stans will read that as criticism, as an attack on Elon’s grand plan, which I can’t possibly fathom, and on free speech itself - because for Elon’s supporters, unless you’re effusive in your praise of his every move, you’re somehow the enemy, and a negative force pushing back against his drive for ‘freedom’ – whatever they decide that means.
So to be clear, I do think that Elon will eventually get Twitter on the right track - and clearly, despite his Icarian approach to management, Twitter is still running, with half the staff, so he is succeeding in his plan thus far to reduce costs, and reform the app in his image.
I do expect that this will all eventually come around. But the confused verification plan, which has taken up far too much time and energy in the early days of Musk’s tenure at the app, is not the way forward.
I expect that Elon will realize this once it’s fully live, and that’ll eventually see him head back to the drawing board to devise a new money-making scheme at the app. And as I’ve detailed elsewhere, there are opportunities available that can generate more income for the app.
But paying $8 for a blue tick is hugely flawed, riddled with failure points, and unlikely, even at optimal levels, to generate enough revenue or interest to reach its intended aims.
Seems like we’ll find out soon, either way.