Would you pay a monthly subscription to use Twitter?
We may soon find out. Twitter is actively considering some sort of new subscription model, according to sources and a job ad posted by the company.
The job listing specified a new ‘Gryphon’ project within the company, describing it as “building a subscription platform, one that can be reused by other teams in the future.” The new group of web engineers are to work with the payments team and the Twitter.com group, according to the posting.
The notion of Twitter charging for access has been a topic of speculation for years.
Former chief operating officer Anthony Noto said in 2017 that Twitter was considering charging for enhanced features inside Tweetdeck, the Twitter product for power users, though that never materialised.
Up until now, it has mostly depended on advertising for its revenue, with that source of income making up 84pc of what it takes in.
But for any companies that aren’t Facebook or Google, advertising is proving to be a tough area to grow income. In the first financial quarter of 2020, Twitter’s sales rose just 3pc, the smallest increase in more than two years.
Chief executive Officer Jack Dorsey is also under pressure from activist investors to accelerate the company’s business, and it’s possible a subscription service that includes special features for the most frequent users could provide more revenue at a time when advertising budgets are pulling back.
But Mark Zgutowicz, an analyst at Rosenblatt Securities, said that Twitter is “highly unlikely” to consider paid subscription tiers for its service. Instead, there could be a subscription tier “for data and analytics that its power users may consider.” The initial total market may be fewer than 10 million users, he said.
Simply charging for Twitter’s core product was always seen as a potential bottleneck to user growth, which is important for a company that makes most of its money from advertising.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also been asked about offering a paid version of the social network over the years, but has argued that the platform should be free in order to reach the most people.
“We do believe that there is a real importance that Twitter is accessible to everyone in the world no matter what their economic stature is and where they are in life, so the general case has been to make Twitter free and open,” Noto said in 2017.
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