Elon Musk promised big changes would come to Twitter under his ownership, and now that he’s finally bought the platform, those shifts are starting up. One of the first adjustments: verified users might soon have to pay $20 per month to maintain their blue checks, as first reported by Platformer’s Casey Newton, who attributed the news to two people familiar with the matter.
The move would take Twitter Blue, the current $4.99/month paid subscriber tier, and transition it into a $19.99/month membership. Right now, users who shell out for Twitter Blue get features like “Undo Tweet” and “Reader Mode,” which allows access to ad-free articles from big news outlets and a different format for long tweet threads. Yet under the reported change, Blue would also become the only way to access profile verification. Site users who already have a blue check would have 90 days to subscribe and start paying, or lose their verified status, according to a report from The Verge based on internal company communications viewed by the outlet.
And it’s not just a sizeable shift for the platform and its users, but also for the company’s employees. Musk reportedly doled out his directive to create a paid version of verification in the form of an ultimatum. The workers tasked with developing the feature need to complete their work by November 7th, or the Tesla CEO will fire them, accord to The Verge.
Currently, almost all of Twitter’s revenue comes from advertisers, based 0n its past financial reports to investors. But it seems as if a large part of Musk’s plan is to make the site more subscription-dependent. Yet even the steep price of $20/month might not boost the company’s bottom line all that much. There were about 400,000 verified users on Twitter in 2021, according to The Guardian. Most of those users will probably not opt to move to the new fee model. Yet even if a full quarter of them did, that’s only about $24 million of annual revenue for the company. For comparison, in just three months of 2022 Twitter pulled in $1.18 billion in revenue. Plus, the company took on $13 billion of debt as part of Musk’s acquisition, for which any revenue from pay-to-verify subscribers would be a drop in the bucket.
So the hefty subscription fee is likely to yield less than one percent of the company’s current annual earnings, while also driving away users. Verification has long been a draw for celebrities, politicians, journalists, and other notable figures on the platform for whom fake, mimic accounts pose a serious annoyance (and threat to credibility).
What else is happening at Twitter?
In addition to the end of free verification, other changes have rapidly begun at the company as well. About a quarter of staff are reportedly set to be laid off this week, according to the Washington Post. The first round of sweeping staff cuts will impact almost every department including sales, product, engineering, legal, and trust and safety, according to the Post’s unnamed source. Musk fired multiple top executives at the company last week, in his first move as Twitter’s owner.
The first hints of trouble with advertisers have also begun to appear, despite Musk’s open letter last week intended to reassure corporate ad spenders. General Motors temporarily paused its paid ads on Twitter. GM has made a big shift towards electric vehicles in recent years, putting the auto manufacturer in direct competition with Musk’s Tesla.
Finally, though Musk has yet to formally announce any changes to the site’s content moderation policy, they are reportedly in the works. Musk tweeted that he and the site were forming a “content moderation council,” which would be tasked with decision making.
In the meantime, users who’ve felt emboldened by Musk’s takeover have apparently used it as an excuse to increase their standard rate of racist vitriol spewing on the platform. Instances of the n-word on the platform reportedly skyrocketed by about 500% in the 12 hours immediately following Musk’s takeover, according to a post from the Network Contagion Research Institute. Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, noted that more than 50,000 tweets used “a particular slur” between Thursday and Saturday but that just 300 accounts were responsible for the flood. “We’ve taken action to ban the users involved in this trolling campaign,” Roth said.