Twitter Blue: Is Social Media Worth Paying For?

25/06/21

Caitlin Hall

3d version of the twitter logo on a blue background

In early June, Twitter launched their ‘first-ever subscription offering’, Twitter Blue. However, the social media platform, launched in 2006, is quick to emphasise the fact that ‘a free Twitter is not going away, and never will’.


The service is currently being trialled in Canada and Australia for $3.49 CAD and $4.49 AUD, roughly equating to a monthly price of just over £2 GBP. The new features that have been added to Twitter Blue include: organised bookmark folders; an undo Tweet feature, allowing users to amend typos; changeable colour themes; and a reader mode, which would utilise the app’s ability to create longer threads, potentially turning Twitter into a go-to news source.


Not everyone was a fan of Twitter’s subscription announcement, with the hashtag #RIPTwitter trending on the app in February. Despite asking for many of these features years ago, Twitter users were unhappy with the idea of paying for a service they were already using for free. Organised folders, an undo button and a reader mode were all requested by Twitter users under the assumption that they would be upgraded for free, given that they’re only refining the service Twitter already provides.


This seems to be the first element of Twitter’s paid membership service, with the idea that a tiered subscription model will soon follow; this would include more features as the price increases. An extension of this is a paid ‘Super Follow’ feature, which Twitter plans to launch soon. Users would be able to set their own subscription price, which would give their followers access to additional, exclusive content. This isn’t a new concept, however, with sites like Patreon allowing people to support their favourite creators through a monthly membership.


The ‘Super Follow’ feature has yielded mixed opinions, with many claiming that they wouldn’t want to ‘pay to read Tweets’, especially as much of Twitter’s content is just people’s random musings of their day, e.g. what they had for breakfast, their opinions on the latest news story, and general celebrity gossip. Whilst this type of content is enjoyable to scroll through as a source of procrastination, not many people would want to pay for the privilege.


However, others argue that this feature would allow for creators and artists to get paid for their work. YouTube creators, once they reach a certain subscriber count, can be paid for their work through Google AdSense and channel memberships—subscribers seem happy to pay for YouTube Premium if it means supporting their favourite creators. In a similar vein, artists and creators often use Twitter to showcase their work, but don’t receive nearly the same compensation. Many artists on Twitter already post their PayPal or CashApp details under their work, encouraging their followers and fans to support them. ‘Super Follows’ would just be an in-app service in replacement.


The controversy asks the question what content is worthy of a subscription fee? Many Twitter users wouldn’t feel aggrieved at paying talented artists, unique content creators and hilarious comedians who all share their work on the platform. However, whilst this makes up a portion of the Tweets on the average Newsfeed, the rest is made up of general observations, recycled jokes and tedious news stories that almost make you delete the app entirely.


If ‘Super Follows’ was used like Patreon—namely, to pay skilful creators for their work—many people wouldn’t have a problem with it. But it seems unreasonable to pay a monthly fee for mediocre content you already see for free, or to fund features like organised bookmarks and a new colour scheme that should have been implemented into Twitter’s free plan many years ago.


Many people may be happy to pay a premium, if they feel they’re getting something extra for their money. But for those of us whose newsfeeds are filled with incoherent ramblings and pictures of avocado on toast, this new subscription service isn’t worth our hard-earned.

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