Elon Musk can put all of Twitter/X behind a paywall. Speaking of a live broadcast on MondayMusk told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the microblogging platform is “moving to a system of small monthly payments,” supposedly to combat bots.
To that I say: Do it, coward. Dare.
Musk has been considering making Twitter/X a paid site for some time, with a Platformer report from last November stating that he was already discussing implementing such a change in 2022. The billionaire has been striving to transform his impulse purchase of U.S. $44 billion in a profitable business. investment since the moment he brought a kitchen sink to the company’s headquarters at the end of last year. However, Musk appears to have little idea how to do this without alienating the vast majority of Twitter/X’s user base, not to mention its advertisers.
“It’s the only way I can think of to combat vast armies of bots,” Musk said of his latest monetization plan, demonstrating a considerable lack of imagination.
The richest man in the world has not said exactly how much he is considering demanding from the proletariat for the continued use of Twitter/X, only that it will be a “small amount of money”. Of course, a “small amount” could mean anything coming from a man with a net worth of $263.3 billion.
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Whatever the amount, it is unlikely that the vast majority of users will be willing to pay it. Goodwill towards Musk and Twitter/X is already incredibly low, with many people actively considering switching to an alternative platform. Hitting the wallet with these dissatisfied users will likely make your decision much easier.
Musk hasn’t had much success with monthly payment plans in the past. Previously, we got a glimpse of Musk’s efforts to monetize Twitter/X when he repriced and revamped the Twitter Blue subscription service, later renamed X Premium. By increasing its cost from $5 to $8 per month, Musk also turned the social media platform’s blue verification badge into a paid subscription benefit, effectively rendering it meaningless.
Unfortunately for Twitter/X, the company’s attempts to persuade users to pay for this subscription were less than convincing. Analysts estimate that about 830,000 accounts were signed up to X Premium in August, a fraction of the 540 million monthly users that Musk claims Twitter/X has.
Even if we assume that Musk was generous with his calculation and that the percentage of subscribed users is higher than it initially appears, it is still a fall into an arid financial desert. Last November, Jon Erlichman of Bloomberg Markets calculated that Twitter/X would need about 78 million subscribers to surpass what the platform previously earned through advertising in 2021 — a source of revenue that has since declined significantly at the rate measure that advertisers fled after Musk’s acquisition.
As such, Musk’s plan to charge everyone to use Twitter/X is likely motivated, at least in part, by the company’s financial position. In May, investment firm Fidelity valued Twitter at about a third of what Musk paid for it.
However, rather than boosting Twitter/X’s bottom line, such a move is more likely to hurt it. A significant reason many have stayed on the platform is because most of the friends, brands, and public figures they follow also stay on it. But if Twitter/X imposes a regular monetary tribute on Musk, it could trigger a huge mass exodus and free those users to find a home for their memes, jokes and idle thoughts elsewhere.
Considering this, it’s possible that nothing will come of Musk’s new monetization scheme, and it will simply remain a passing fancy. Still, it might not be. After all, Musk has proven time and time again that no matter how unpopular, reckless, or just plain foolish a course of action may be, he’s willing to follow through anyway.