During a recent live-streamed meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, X (formerly known as Twitter) CEO Elon Musk hinted at a significant potential shift in X’s business model, raising questions and curiosity among users and industry observers alike.
Elon’s remark centred around the possibility of implementing a mandatory paywall for all X users.
He mentioned that the company was considering the introduction of a “small monthly payment for use of the system,” a statement that left many speculating about the implications of such a move.
Upon closer examination of the video footage, it becomes evident that his emphasis on the term “small” appears to refer to a more accessible version of X’s existing Verified plan, currently priced at $8 per month.
This suggested approach aligns X with prevalent industry practices, wherein tiered pricing structures grant access to varying sets of features while maintaining a free entry-level option.
His rationale behind introducing a paywall revolves around combating the persistent issue of automated accounts or bots that have plagued X.
Elon argues that the ease and affordability of setting up bots, which currently costs only a fraction of a penny, have enabled malicious actors to exploit the platform.
“The single-most important reason we’re moving to having a small monthly payment for use of the X system is it’s the only way I can think of to combat vast armies of bots.”
To address this concern, he proposes increasing the cost of an X account to “a few dollars or something,” thereby acting as a deterrent for potential bot operators.
Furthermore, requiring a new payment method for each new bot creation adds an extra layer of complexity, making it more challenging for abusers to proliferate.
Another pressing factor motivating this potential shift is perhaps X’s financial performance.
Reports indicate that the platform continues to grapple with significant deficits in ad revenue.
Elon’s legal disputes and resulting fines have only exacerbated the company’s financial challenges.
Presently, X generates revenue solely through its subscription service, X Premium (formerly Twitter Blue), offering subscribers an automatic verified blue checkmark for $11/month in the United States (US).
Ironically, Elon’s proposed solution to combat bots opens up a new revenue stream for both him and X, a motive that has seemingly underpinned the platform’s recent changes.
The consideration of implementing a paywall coincides with X’s declining advertising revenue, which has historically been its primary income source.
He claims a staggering 60% decrease in ad revenue, a statistic that warrants further scrutiny.
It is undeniable that X currently faces multiple challenges, including a sharp decline in users, frequent technical glitches, and reduced moderation efforts, leading to an increase in hate speech and offensive content.
Moreover, his rebranding efforts for X have not unfolded as expected, with the majority of users (69%) still referring to it as Twitter months after the transition.
In light of these ongoing issues, introducing a more affordable version of a service criticised by a significant portion of X’s user base may not provide a comprehensive solution to the platform’s current predicaments.