Twitter is to start letting media organisations charge users for access to its articles on a case-by-case basis and with just one click.
Twitter boss Elon Musk announced on 30 April that the change would be coming next month.
“This platform will allow media publishers to charge users on a per article basis with one click,” wrote Musk.
“This enables users who would not sign up for a monthly subscription to pay a higher per article price for when they want to read an occasional article.
“Should be a major win-win for both media orgs & the public,” he added.
The move comes as Musk continues to try and move Twitter away from its reliance on ad dollars and towards a business model based on user spend and privileged content.
However, there are a number of problems with the South African businessman’s new plan. First is that he has massively pissed off a range of publications ranging from the BBC to PBS in recent months with his continued assertions about them being “government-funded” organisations. Whether these organisations will look to use the feature remains to be seen but journalists tend to have a relatively high degree of solidarity.
The second problem is that, if accessed through the Twitter iOS or Android apps, Apple and Google will charge a fee to manage the transaction that unlocks the news. Musk has been clear about his determination to move Twitter into becoming an app that can facilitate digital payments. But, at the moment, that capability is not present.
What’s more, it seems likely that this could lead to a lawsuit between Apple and Twitter over the payment of the fees. A lawsuit had appeared to be in the offing between Apple and Twitter late last year over concerns about free speech.
Another big problem is Musk’s own Twitter back catalogue. Just last year, Musk tweeted this with regard to an article about him published in the Washington Post.
The Washington Post’s current slogan is “Democracy Dies in Darkness”. Catchy – for sure – but then what’s up with the paywall for news!?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 28, 2022
The final problem is whether anyone will use the new service at all. Musk has claimed that Twitter usage had increased since he took over at the company but, according to SimilarWeb, visits to Twitter.com dropped 7.3 per cent year-over-year in March and the average daily active users on Twitter’s Android app were down 9.8 per cent in March and monthly active users were down 8 per cent, both year-over-year.