Elon Musk might charge everyone a fee to use Twitter/X

Elon Musk might put all of Twitter/X behind a paywall. Speaking in a livestream on Monday, Musk told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the microblogging platform is “moving to a small monthly payment” system, allegedly to combat bots.

To that I say: Do it, coward. I dare you.

Musk has been considering making Twitter/X a paid website for a while, with a Platformer report from last November stating that he was already discussing implementing such a change in 2022. The billionaire has been scrambling to turn his $44 billion impulse buy into a profitable investment from the moment he lugged a kitchen sink into the company’s headquarters late last year. However, Musk appears to have little idea of how to go about it without alienating the vast majority of Twitter/X’s userbase, not to mention its advertisers.

“It’s the only way I can think of to combat vast armies of bots,” Musk said of his latest monetisation plan, displaying a considerable lack of imagination.

The richest man in the world did not say exactly how much he is considering demanding from the proletariat for their continued use of Twitter/X, only that it will be a “small amount of money.” Of course, a “small amount” could mean anything coming from a man with a net worth of $263.3 billion.

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Whatever the amount is, it’s unlikely the vast majority of users will feel inclined to pay it. Goodwill toward Musk and Twitter/X is already incredibly low, with many people actively contemplating jumping to an alternative platform. Hitting these dissatisfied users in the wallet is likely to make their decision that much easier.

Musk hasn’t had great success with monthly payment plans in the past. We previously got a taste of Musk’s efforts to monetise Twitter/X when he repriced and rejigged subscription service Twitter Blue, later renamed X Premium. Increasing its cost from $5 to $8 per month, Musk also made the social media platform’s blue tick verification badge a paid subscription perk, effectively rendering it meaningless.

Unfortunately for Twitter/X, the company’s attempts to persuade users to shell out for this subscription have been less than convincing. Analysts estimate that around 830,000 accounts are subscribed to X Premium as of August, a fraction of the 540 million monthly users Musk claims Twitter/X has. 

Even if we assume Musk has been generous with his reckoning, and that the percentage of users subscribed is larger than it initially appears, it’s still a drop in a dry financial desert. Last November Bloomberg Markets’ Jon Erlichman calculated that Twitter/X would need around 78 million subscribers to surpass what the platform previously made via advertising in 2021 — a revenue source that has since diminished significantly as advertisers fled in the wake of Musk’s takeover.

As such, Musk’s plan to charge absolutely everybody to use Twitter/X is likely motivated at least in part by the company’s financial position. In May, investment firm Fidelity valued Twitter at around one third of what Musk paid for it.

However, rather than boost Twitter/X’s bottom line, such a change is more likely to hurt it. One significant reason many have remained on the platform is because the majority of the friends, brands, and public figures they follow remain on it as well. But if Twitter/X imposes a regular monetary tribute to Musk, it could spark an enormous mass exodus and free those users to find a home for their memes, jokes, and idle thoughts elsewhere.

Considering this, it’s possible nothing will come of Musk’s new monetisation scheme, and it will simply remain a passing fancy. Still, it might not. After all, Musk has proven time and again that no matter how unpopular, ill-advised, or plain foolish a course of action may be, he’s willing to power through regardless.

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