Twitter has descended into absolute chaos in recent days as its new owner, Elon Musk, chases his new revenue stream: Twitter Blue, the platform’s refurbished paid user subscription.
When asked by a Twitter user to confirm how subscription numbers were going, Musk simply replied, “Needs some tweaks, but overall proceeding well.”
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But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
New Twitter Blue subscriptions were put on pause on Friday, just after the updated program launched on Nov. 9. Fake accounts were impersonating brands and notable individuals, which certainly did not please the advertisers that remain on the platform.
The mobile analytics firm Sensor Tower provided Mashable with revenue stats for Nov. 9 and Nov. 10 when subscriptions were open for anyone with Apple iOS devices in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.
Twitter Blue brought in $488,000 in those two days. Accounting for the $8 price tag, that’s 61,000 new subscribers at most.
That’s a conversion rate of just over 0.025 percent of Twitter’s 238 million daily active users. If you factor that only the 10 percent of Twitter users that the company considers to be “power users” would be interested in paying, the conversion rate is a bit better but not great at just over 0.25 percent. The average conversion rate in e-commerce is roughly between 2 and 3 percent.
However, there are a few things to note. Some of that two-day revenue includes renewal subscriptions from users who paid for the previous iterations of Twitter Blue, which cost $3 and $5, and did not upgrade. Also, consider that the much-requested edit button feature was added as a perk to the previous version of Twitter Blue on Oct. 6. Renewals for the users who subscribed to that plan in the first week would land within the timeframe of the $8 launch.
According to Sensor Tower, Twitter’s in-app revenue from the launch of the edit button until Oct. 10 was approximately $156,000, which amounts to an estimated 31,200 paying subscribers. Around half of those renewals likely fell on Nov. 9 or Nov. 10, not accounting for cancellations.
On top of that, it’s clear that a number of these $8 signups are from trolls impersonating brands and other users. As these accounts get banned, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to renew their subscription the following month.
Overall, it’s plausible the new Twitter Blue saw less than 50,000 unique subscribers join.
In a best-case scenario where Twitter continues to gain 30,500 subscribers every day with zero cancellations, Twitter is looking at generating $7.32 million per month, or just over $87.8 million per year. That’s not quite the half of $5 billion that Elon Musk seeks.
In a piece published earlier this week, Mashable looked at just how many paying subscribers Twitter could reasonably expect using industry standard e-commerce conversion rates and landed on around 600,000. Using Sensor Tower’s data, Mashable also estimated that the previous version of the Twitter Blue plan only had 105,000 subscribers paying $5 a month. Casey Newton of The Platformer newsletter later corroborated this estimate, finding that Twitter Blue had “a little more than 100,000 active subscribers.”
Musk has put all his eggs in this basket. In his first email to Twitter employees this week, its new owner stated that he wants half of the company’s revenue to come from subscriptions as advertising revenue plummets since he took over. Twitter made $5 billion in 2021, so he’d need more than 26 million users a month to that monthly $8 fee. Musk has also said that Twitter’s losing $4 million a day, so he’d need 15 million paying subscribers just to cover the $120 million in monthly expenses.
For $8 per month, any account on Twitter can now display the verified blue check mark badge, without any actual verification if the account is who they say they are. Fake verified accounts have been popping up, pretending to be various brands on Twitter. This is causing lots of trouble for the platform, as they depend on these advertisers for the bulk of its revenue.
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Many companies have already put a pause on their advertising budgets for Twitter since Elon Musk acquired it, questioning the “free speech”-branded direction he wanted to take the company in. For example, on the day Musk took over racial slurs on the platform spiked by 500 percent.
So, can Musk grow Twitter Blue from where it currently is?
It’s important to factor in that a substantial portion of the audience for Twitter Blue’s main feature, the verification badge, has likely signed up already. Twitter’s most requested feature over the years, the edit button, resulted in only 100,000 total paying subscribers when it launched last month. Also note that the allure of the verification badge prior to the new Twitter Blue was that only “notable” users received one. If anyone can just buy it for $8, it loses its appeal and less people will actually want it.
Regardless of what happens with Twitter Blue in the future, between actual subscriber numbers and the decimation to Twitter’s reputation among advertisers, it surely doesn’t seem accurate to say that “overall” it’s “proceeding well.”