Soon, It's Possible We May Have to Pay for Twitter

The Veracity Report

You might be surprised at what others said when I polled them across social media

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An external photo of the author's phone.Photo by Author Kurt Dillon

First, I have to start by saying that I’ve been fascinated with this pending acquisition since I first heard rumors of it.

Elon Musk is a true hit-or-miss guy as far as super-rich billionaires go. But I don’t think many will argue that he’s probably the most accessible of all the Masters of the Universe — that is, at least, one-way access.

I have personally had numerous censorship issues with both Twitter and Facebook over the past decade. I’ve been placed in extended terms of both Twitter and Facebook jail so often that I can legitimately lay claim to virtual cells with my name on them.

Seriously though, censorship across social media is a really serious problem in America

It is not something that should be laughed at. I only do it occasionally because it keeps a hardcore constitutionalist like me from going hog-wild crazy every time I witness the audacity.

As soon as the news went public that Twitter’s board was going to accept EM’s bid to purchase the outstanding shares of common stock at slightly over $54.00 per share, I began drafting my poll.

Why? Because we are soon going to be faced with a very odd scenario —

Twitter, the world’s second-largest social media platform — is becoming a privately held company

That means no board - unless EM decides he wants one (they would have no real decision-making power if he chose to have one - at least not the way the boards of publicly owned companies do). It also means that Elon doesn’t have to answer to any shareholders when it's time to make a decision. This means that he could decide to implement any number of changes in how Twitter operates. In fact, some specific elements he’s mentioned that I feel we can safely assume are going to happen very quickly are:

  • Longer tweets, (bye bye 240 characters)
  • No more censorship for differing political ideologies
  • No more (or at least far fewer) bots
  • and most importantly, the monetization of the site.

That's right, in case you didn’t know, there are right now, ways to charge for paid subscriptions on Twitter as well as other means of monetizing your Twitter feed.

To me, monetization is the most intriguing aspect of this buyout

That’s because one of the things EM has consistently talked about eliminating if he takes over as top bird, (top Tweeter? Twatter? Twitterer? (Shrugs) know knows?) is that he wants to drastically reduce, if not eliminate, the ads that show up all over the site.

While such a noble desire is highly commendable, it's also financially perplexing. That’s because, as most of us know, ad revenue represents about 90% of what makes any social media platform profitable.

Sites like Twitter and Facebook, which boast massive numbers of ‘hourly unique clicks,’ can command ludicrous amounts of money from advertisers wanting to place ads on the sites’ most frequented pages. And, no matter how noble and philanthropic Mr. Musk may be, we can be sure that he didn’t just dish out $44 billion (with a B) to buy a controlling interest in a fiscally upside-down company as a tax write-off.

Writing a check for $44 with nine zeros behind it hurts-- even for someone with Musk-Money

Make no mistake, Elon Musk doesn’t know how to lose. He’s the guy that needed to make a spaceship, so he bought several decommissioned Russian Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) to use as SpaceX’s original space vehicles (true story). No, he and Twitter are going to make money — lots of it.

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A recreated image of a quote made on Twitter by Elon Musk shortly after learning his buyout offer had been acceptedRecreated by the author, Kurt Dillon

In fact, I give it less than a year before Twitter is on a solid pace to earn back this entire acquisition investment which I believe will succeed, with interest, within the next ten years, possibly as early as five.

In order to do that, while simultaneously slowing down ads across the site or stopping them altogether, he’s going to have to open up different kinds of revenue streams. So I asked several of my economist friends who attended Columbia University with me, what strategies they believe Mr. Musk will employ to accomplish the task. The most prevalent method they agree will occur is that EM will most likely monetize Twitter to its patrons.

That’s right, he’s very likely to transform Twitter into paid subscription service -- at least partially

Sure, many will defect, spewing coarse epithets and expressing long-digit expressions of frustration as they leave, but many more will stay, and yet other long since alienated previous Twitter users are bound to return to give the platform another try now that Uncle Elon is in charge.

Why?

Not because they get to become part of some snobby, privileged, elite brand of social media pundits. No, many will stay because a subscription service Twitter will most likely offer users infinitely practical tools to help them grow their brands — whether personal or professional.

Think about it.

All manner of customizations and build-outs could be possible — and in relatively short order — on a newly revised Twitter platform that costs about as much as say, a Microsoft Office 365 or Netflix monthly subscription does. Just like LinkedIn and some of the other social media sites, you can be sure there will always be a free version of Twitter available for the casual public. But I'm equally sure that some manner of paid subscription upgrade will be available soon (Twitter Premium perhaps? Or Twitter +?).

As I said, if people are convinced that there is value there and that the number of people using the platform hasn’t tanked too much, (so far, for every Twitter defector officially reported, there have been almost as many new members signing up), there are millions of people who will pay for that kind of ‘Designer Twitter’ experience — honestly, I think I might even be one of them.

But what about my poll?

I posted the poll into the direct feeds of just over 250,000 people. Out of that, 1,688 people participated in the poll. The results? less than 10% (152) said they would pay for Twitter.

However, (here I go throwing some junk into the game…) When I followed up with the question:

“Would your answer stay the same, change, or would you be undecided, if it was revealed that the new, “Designer Twitter” offered an expansive suite of customizable tools and characteristics, geared to helping you or your brand reach your networking goals?

About 40% of those who had initially said they would not pay for Twitter, said they would at least reconsider joining a “Designer Twitter” if it offered those types of tools and if they saw real value in doing so.No matter what your opinion or mine, Twitter and Elon Musk are here to stay. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on how you think the social media platform will progress, and what you think it might look like in a year or two.

Will you be on Twitter to share in the ride?

I will.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @KurtDillon_com.

I hope to see you there.

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