Twitter’s long-anticipated subscription service has debuted in Canada and Australia, giving users a handful of exclusive features and opening up a new revenue stream for the company beyond advertising.
Twitter Blue was unexpectedly introduced on Thursday morning with (what else?) a tweet and a post on the Twitter blog. “This new monthly subscription gives people exclusive access to premium features that give them more customization over their Twitter experience,” it said.
For $3.49 a month in Canada (and $4.49 in Australia) users get access to an enhanced bookmarking feature, a new reader mode (for multi-tweet threads, for example) and will be able to undo tweets for up to 30 seconds after publishing—giving users some recourse to correct their tweeted mistakes, although it’s not the edit option so many have asked for.
In terms of immediate implications for advertisers, there are not many. Twitter Blue is about providing new features for users, but will not reduce their ad load. “They will still see ads as they always have in their timelines,” said Laura Pearce, head of marketing for Twitter Canada.
Twitter Blue was designed for what Pearce describes as “super users,” including brands’ social media managers. “We expect that they’ll get a lot of benefit out of stuff like bookmark folders, where you can organize the things you’re bookmarking; reader mode just makes threads a lot easier to read and consume… and then, of course, the Undo tweet is a social media manager’s best friend,” she said.
Advertisers will also not be getting any new or different data from Blue subscribers. “This really is a consumer product, not necessarily an ad product,” said Twitter Canada’s head of tech and telco, Andrea MacDonald. “What our ad partners can access does not change with this product—this is really an enhancement to the experience on Twitter, versus adding any additional analytics.”
Twitter said in February that it wants to double its 2020 revenue of $3.7 billion to $7.5 billion by 2023, and has been open about its intent to diversify revenue streams beyond advertising, which accounts for about 85% of its global revenue. “Our ad business is very strong,” said Pearce. “We’re growing year on year, quarter on quarter so [Twitter Blue] is just really part of our diversification strategy.”
However, the new services also speak to larger shifts in the media landscape, as publishers and platforms look for ways to capture and retain consumer attention and monetize it through subscriptions rather than advertising.
Among the other “perks” included with a Blue subscription—aside from customizable app icons and “fun color themes”—will be “access to dedicated subscription customer support.” A Twitter Canada spokesperson confirmed that support will only be for issues related to the new Blue features.