Twitter followed through on CEO Elon Musk’s pledge just days earlier to launch new features to its Twitter Blue subscription model Saturday, rolling out a $7.99 per month charge to receive a blue checkmark for new features as Musk scrambles to find ways to generate more revenue—but it was a bumpy release, with a Twitter manager conceding they were still “working and testing in real-time.”
A blue checkmark, which had previously been reserved for verified accounts primarily held by celebrities, politicians, companies and news outlets, now comes with “half the ads” and “much better ones,” according to a Twitter statement released Saturday.
Twitter users with $8 a month blue checkmarks will also be able to post longer videos and have their content prioritized in replies, mentions and searches.
The launch comes four days after Musk announced the plan, tweeting the platform’s “current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bulls**t.”
After the announcement, however, several users complained the new features hadn’t materialized, suggesting the process was not entirely ready to be rolled out. One complaint prompted a response from Esther Crawford, Twitter director of product management, who wrote, “you’re catching us working and testing in real-time. . . but the new version and all accompanying features aren’t live yet … it’ll all be coming soon!”
What We Don’t Know
Whether Musk will raise the price of Twitter Blue subscriptions. Twitter said it would cost $7.99 per month “if you sign up now,” potentially indicating there could be a future price hike for the feature. Earlier reports suggested Musk could charge as much as $20 a month, although he walked back on that number when horror author Stephen King tweeted at him, saying Twitter “should pay me.” Musk replied, “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers. How about $8?”
$13 billion. That’s how much several major banks, including Bank of America, Barclays Plc and Morgan Stanley, are reportedly providing Musk in financing for his $44 billion acquisition, which he completed late last month. Forbes, however, estimates it would take 10.4 million users paying for Twitter Blue each year to cover the debt. Wedbush analyst Dan Ives estimates the $8 fees could generate roughly 4-5% (between $230 million and $290 million) of what the company makes in advertising revenue, “if adoption is strong,” Forbes reported. When asked if it could generate $1 billion, Ives replied, “nope.”
Twitter unveiled the Twitter Blue subscription program last year as a separate service from its verification model, charging $4.99 a month and giving users the ability to undo tweets, while providing them a customizable navigation bar and prioritized customer support. Its verification model, meanwhile, has been kept to accounts deemed “authentic, notable and active.” The platform suspended the verification program in 2017 after coming under scrutiny over several accounts that violated the company’s policies despite receiving blue checkmarks. Twitter lifted its suspension on the program last July.
Speaking at a Baron Investment Conference Friday, Musk acknowledged he attempted to renege on his $44 billion offer since he initially announced it in April, admitting the company was experiencing “pretty serious revenue challenges and cost challenges,” before the acquisition, and faces a new challenge as advertisers pull the plug on ads. Advertisers have started pulling ads off the site over the past week, with big-name companies including Audi, GM, Pfizer, General Mills, United Airlines and Volkswagen all announcing they are pausing their advertising, as fears grow that Musk could open the floodgates for hate speech and conspiracy theories to proliferate by loosening Twitter’s moderation.A group of organizations urged Twitter’s top 20 advertisers to “cease all advertising” if Musk lifts its moderation policies. NAACP President Derrick Johnson also pleaded with advertisers to suspend advertising, arguing it’s “immoral, dangerous and highly destructive to our democracy” for a company to fund a site that “fuels hate speech, election denialism and conspiracy theories.” Musk had been attempting for weeks to persuade advertisers not to leave the site, pledging in an open letter last week not to let the platform descend into a “free-for-all hellscape” without consequences. On Friday, Musk posted a tweet blaming “activist groups” for pressuring advertisers to pull ads, arguing they are “trying to destroy free speech in America,” and that he has not done anything to change the company’s moderation policies.