Jan-Lukas Else

Thoughts of an IT expert

Why a paid Twitter won’t work

Published on in 💭 Thoughts
Short link: https://b.jlel.se/s/3b3
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Twitter has bought a newsletter platform called Revue. Revue’s business model was provisions of paid newsletters and premium features. After the acquisition, the provision has now been lowered and the premium features made free.

It is a good idea for Twitter to diversify its business with a newsletter platform that is not based on the advertising business model. There is a newsletter hype right now and the provision on Substack, a competitor to Revue, is higher.

But my honest opinion when I read speculations that Twitter itself might also switch from advertising to paid service:

A general problem with social media, but also messenger services, is that many people don’t want to pay at all. As soon as they hear that a service will cost money, most people look for free alternatives, no matter how much time they spend on it, in order to save 1 or 2 euros or dollars a month.

If people were generally more willing to pay, then many more people would use Fastmail instead of Gmail, for example, or Threema instead of WhatsApp. And better services (like Micro.blog) would already have been found as alternatives to Facebook and Twitter, which see the user as the customer rather than the advertiser.

And there’s also the hurdle of payments themselves. Not everyone has a credit card or a PayPal account and the inhibition threshold to enter payment details on the internet is high.

It’s a dilemma to which I don’t know a solution either. On the one hand, it is the only way out of surveillance capitalism if users pay with money instead of data, but on the other hand, it will be very difficult to implement such a solution. Not technically, but in the way that potential users are convinced.

No matter how good a paid service is and how bad a free service is, there will be enough users for the free service because many just don’t want to pay for things on the internet in general.

And while it would still be possible for email services, for example, to subsidize free usage with enterprise users, social media premium features effectively boil down to ads, if you look at what LinkedIn earns money with.


Jan-Lukas Else
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