On October 27, Elon Musk finalized his purchase of Twitter. And on the same day, he fired the top executives, including the CEO, Parag Agrawal. Other top brass has abruptly quit, and Twitter faces a mass exodus of advertisers as Musk claims to loosen rules on content moderation.
As advertisers contribute to approximately 90% of Twitter’s revenue, the billionaire is tasked with finding another way to “pay the bills.” On October 30, he hinted at a potential solution: charging users for verification. He also tweeted that the verification process was being “revamped.”
What Happens to the Value of Verification?
Twitter currently has a subscription plan called Twitter Blue. For $4.99 a month, users can unlock additional features such as an undo window to correct typos and a customizable navigation bar. Musk initially wanted to charge users $19.99 a month for this subscription. This would also include the fees for retaining the blue tick.
Those who already have the coveted blue checkmark would have 90 days to subscribe to Twitter Blue before losing their badge.
The concept of charging users for the blue check has generated a lot of buzz and confusion on social media. It has also led to significant upheaval, especially for those already having the badge.
Stephen King Speaks Up
On Halloween day, the Master of Horror himself went viral with his reaction to this plan. Stephen King tweeted that if this plan materializes, he would be “gone like Enron.” King’s 6.9 million follower base on Twitter had a mixed response to this.
One person pointed out that the famed author could easily afford the fee. But King insisted he was not dismayed over the price but the principle. Early on Tuesday, November 1, Musk replied directly to King’s tweet. He said Twitter could not rely on advertisers alone “to pay the bills.” He countered with a lower price of $8 a month for Twitter Blue.
Musk’s Take on Verification
Apparently, Musk liked this idea enough to stick with it. Later on Tuesday, he confirmed that Twitter Blue would cost $8 per month, including the sought-after verification badge. He tweeted his disapproval of the current verification process, which he called a “lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark.”
While Musk appears to view the verification process as elites versus everyday Joes, in reality, this is inaccurate. Twitter verification offers credibility and a sense of trust. Under the current system, you know that it really is Stephen King criticizing Musk’s ideas. But monetizing verification could be akin to ringing the dinner bell for scammers worldwide.
There is no doubt that this plan could generate tremendous revenues for Twitter. Presently, there are approximately 400,000 verified Twitter accounts on the platform. If all of them were to subscribe to Twitter Blue, that would total up to $38 million in annual revenues.
There are currently 396.5 million global Twitter users. Now, if every genuine (non-bot) user were also to subscribe to this feature, Twitter’s revenue would skyrocket drastically. Therefore, there’s no doubt monetizing verification could bring enormous revenues for Twitter. Yet, what is the actual price of this plan?
The verification process was designed to offer protection for users. While Elon Musk wants every genuine Twitter profile to be verified, how do you determine which users are real?
While bot profiles can be singled out in this process, copycat and scammer accounts are more difficult to identify. An impostor could pay the subscription fee of $8 a month and have the blue check. What would that mean for people’s safety and credibility?
This sets the current verification system apart, as it confirms a profile’s authenticity before awarding them the badge. If verification is monetized, there could be many more Stephen Kings and Elon Musks with blue checks.
Digital Nod’s Take
If more than one profile claims the same identity, and all profiles have the blue badge, how do you know which account is real? In all honesty, this will no longer be feasible. And it puts Twitter at risk of being an unsafe platform.
While Musk’s concept of monetizing verification could be a viable solution to distinguish real accounts from bots, it doesn’t answer the question of scammers. Currently verified accounts (especially those at risk of being impersonated) would need to stay identifiable for this plan to work.
In our professional opinion, users need not panic. There is no doubt that this momentous decision can have many consequences, some even catastrophic. Yet, such drastic action cannot happen overnight, especially with several loopholes and grave concerns still to address.
Public figures and celebrity accounts would still need to remain distinguishable in one way or another. Now whether that’s achieved through a different colored check or a secondary tag below the username, does that not lead us back to the question of “lords & peasants” once again?
To our current and potential clients, we can help you navigate these choppy waters. Contact us if you have any questions or concerns, as Digital Nod is always here for you.