Adrian Short has written an excellent and widely-tweeted piece entitled What Makes Twitter Twitter? that looks at the future of the social network. The crucial line in the piece is “Twitter used to be where people talked. Now it’s where money talks.” – very true. But Twitter likewise needs to become self-sustainable, financially, something it has not yet achieved.

The thing is that for intensive individual users of Twitter like Adrian and I, and many thousands of others, there is currently no way Twitter can make any money out of us other than via advertising and promoted tweets – all the corporate stuff that’s the subject of Adrian’s ire. We’re free riders.

The solution, I think, would be to introduce a paid-for premium account for Twitter users. This would not be the same as the big campaign offerings for Starbucks or Porsche. Price this user pro account at $5/month, and in return ensure that a user sees no advertising or promoted tweets, ever, and also has access to a Twitter client that’s better than the current Tweetdeck and would allow better combinations of search and lists, proper list management, and one-click translations of tweets.

Twitter, in its conversation form, is important enough to me to mean I would pay $5/month for it. Would you?

[Note: in 2009 there were some debates about Twitter pro accounts – see this from Business Insider and this from Cnet. I assume these proposals are what became Twitter for Business]


  1. And just like to prove my previous points, today I received with the Belgian post a letter from Google with a voucher for 25 € for Adwords.

    Compare this to the Twitter approach where I have to beg for advertising possibilities – and still get rejected (see my two previous comments above).

  2. Short-follow up from my request to advertise on Twitter. Here is the answer I received today per Email (and this is exactly the reason why they can’t compete at all with Google or Facebook):

    Dear Brusselsblogger,

    Thank you for your interest in Promoted Products. We read all advertiser submissions, but please note that we cannot respond personally to each one.

    Based on the information you provided, the best Twitter advertising solution for you is our small business offering. Unfortunately, it is currently only available in beta testing to a limited number of businesses in the U.S. and Canada.

    We’ll be in touch with you in the future when this advertising solution becomes more widely available.


    The Twitter Team

  3. I still don’t understand why widgets moved from resources and went under settings. Took me ages to realise this. Settings! I agree with Brusselblogger, the general set-up of twitter from a UI pov is pretty poor.

    The average user is who Twitter should be thinking about, not everyone, in fact very few people are power users. And the current format isn’t conducive to them either. It’s just odd.

  4. @Jon

    For me one goes with the other: if Twitter doesn’t manage to be more useful for more people then it will have trouble with ad revenue.

    And for me it all starts with the user experience:

    1) The main navigation is Home, Connect, Discover and Me. How many people actually understand what to expect behind connect and Discover?

    2) What is Discover actually? It says it’s “What’s happening now, tailored for you.” But isn’t my feed actually already “tailor-made”? And why are there so many irrelevant items in my tailor-made feed?

    3) Why does the Discover section show extracts of linked articles and not the main feed or user timeslines?

    4) Why do I need to click on a wheel in the header to find out with which user I am logged in?

    5) Why do I need to click on a wheel in the header to get to my direct messages (potentially a very powerful feature)?

    6) Why do I get a very useful summary once per week per email but the same content is not available via the Twitter website?

    7) Why do I have “Who to follow” on every Twitter page when I already follow more than 1000 people?

    8) Why is there no link whatsoever to Lists? In order to go to my lists I need to click on me, then List and then the list that I want to go to. 3 clicks.

    9) When I click on advertising, why is the only thing i can do submit a form? (“we will get back to you” – how does that compare to the create an ad feature on Facebook?

    10) Why is there no feature at all to manage the people you follow? You can not even search for a name within your followers.

    Twitter has an arrogant “this is how we see things – take it or leave it” approach. I don’t like many about Facebook. But they certainly try to do everything to be as useful as possible for their users.

  5. @Brusselsblogger – I am not at all concerned about the regular user experience not having changed much. The constant and arbitrary change to the way Facebook works is a major gripe with it. There are still ways in Twitter – esp. using lists and apps – that allow users to work out their own way of using it.

    I agree with you re. the advertising and the app ecosystem though, but the problem is Twitter is not breaking even, so they need to aim to secure an even greater amount of ad revenue.

    I’m not sure it’s going to be bought, but I do think it’s reached its peak of usefulness.

  6. In my view, Twitter is on a wrong path. How is it possible that the site is only updated once in a year or so while Facebook continually tweaks its layout, features and small details?

    Why is it that after years in the business Twitter has not found a system that also allows occasional users to have some real value of the system? Twitter just sticks to the one-timeline-for-all approach while Facebook always manages to present me relevant and mostly interesting content, no matter how frequent (or infrequent) I open it up in my browser.

    How can you piss off everyone in the very ecosystem that you successfully created in the first place? Extending their business model to the ecosystem (= let third-party clients get a share of the advertising money) would in my view be far better than the current we-will-do-it-alone-and-dont-need-you approach.

    I think it’s only a matter of time until Twitter gets bought by the real big players.

  7. Is $5 (£3) sustainable when only a few people will opt opt for it? Or if lots of people went for it, it would undermine their main source of revenue – why would anyone advertise? If $5 gave me analytics too I may think about it – but outlined above isn’t near enough for me.

    Also from Twitter’s point of view when people start paying for access they tend to demand certain things. $5 isn’t enough for a company to support, especially when you only have 1,000 employees and millions of users. The money is with the corporate business.

  8. Bridie Jenner

    I don’t think paying a fee for Twitter in order to avoid promoted tweets would be an incentive. If I paid $5 a month and Twitter promised to stop the porn bots following me, spamming me and hijacking my hash tag then yes – it would be worth every penny!

  9. @Karl W – agree re. events

    @Karl R – is what you outline sustainable? Because – reading Adrian’s original post, and other things about Twitter’s business model over the months – I think the opportunities for building brilliant and ad-free apps are going to become more and more restricted as the months pass if Twitter keeps on pursuing its current line. More practically – what client is better for Mac than Tweetdeck in Chrome? On iOS Tweetbot is near perfect, but I’m still missing a good Mac client with list and search management in columns.

  10. Karl Wilding

    I’d pay for a pro account, particularly if they’d bring back the Air version of Tweetdeck and develop it…also something that made it *easy* to pull together tweets from, say, an event. I continue to find twitter useful and I think it’s fair that the business model has to be sustainable.

  11. Think I’d keep my fiver. Can just about divert my eyes from the very few promoted accounts, trends or tweets. Lots of tools out there already that do better than a slightly upgraded Tweekdeck.

  12. Vic Carter

    How very elitist how very Guardian

  13. Oh what a thoughtful comment. Clicking on ads = paying. Paying a fee = paying. I would prefer the latter, not the former. What’s elitist about that?

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