Twitter’s new ‘Subscriptions’ feature is the same thing as ‘Super Follows’Reading Time: 4 minutes
The paid subscription feature wasn’t much of a success before. Will anything be different this time around?
‘Starting today, Twitter will share ad revenue with creators for ads that appear in their reply threads,’ Twitter owner Elon Musk tweeted over two months ago.
That still hasn’t happened and Twitter remains one of the few big social media platforms that doesn’t provide an ad-share revenue model for its content creators.
However, on Thursday, Musk announced something else to get creators paid on Twitter.
‘Apply to offer your followers subscriptions of any material, from longform text to hours long video!’ Musk tweeted. ‘Just tap on ‘Monetization’ in settings.’
According to Musk, Twitter users will be able to accept paid subscriptions on the platforms from followers who want to see exclusive tweets and other content from that user. In addition, subscribers will have a little badge next to their name when they reply to a user they subscribed to, showing other users their subscription status.
Musk followed up his tweet with some more information regarding Twitter’s intent to promote the Subscription feature.
‘For the next 12 months, Twitter will keep none of the money,’ Musk said. ‘You will receive whatever money we receive, so that’s 70% for subscriptions on iOS & Android (they charge 30%) and ~92% on web (could be better, depending on payment processor).’
Musk went on to explain that after these 12 months, Twitter will take a ‘small amount’ on top of the reduced iOS and Android fees. Both Apple and Google lower there revenue cut from 30 percent to 15 percent after the first month. The exact amount Twitter would take from user revenue at that point is unclear. Musk also said Twitter will ‘help promote’ users’ work, but what that entails was also not mentioned.
Subscriptions is just a previously existing Twitter feature formerly known as Super Follows
If this feature sounds familiar, well, that’s because it already existed before Musk acquired the company. The subscription feature was formerly known as Super Follows and it provided the exact same service. It officially launched all the way back in September 2021. In fact, users who partook in the ‘Super Follows’ program noticed the name change to ‘Subscribers’ back in November. Musk wasn’t a fan of the old name.
As for the revenue share offer for that first year offered by Musk, it’s missing a lot of details.
When the feature was known as Super Follows, old Twitter’s revenue cut was only 3 percent of the users’ earnings. That means the Twitter user walked away with 97 percent of the subscribers’ revenue up to the first $50k in lifetime earnings. After that amount, users would receive up to 80 percent of their earnings.
Now known as ‘Subscriptions’ under Musk, the revenue share model is…exactly the same, at least according to the About page for the Subscriptions feature. The only difference in the revenue share model appears to be that Musk is passing on collecting Twitter’s cut for 12 months. If a user sets their subscription price at $4.99 for their followers, they will basically receive an extra 10 cents per paying subscriber per month for the next year.
Musk’s ‘Subscription’ announcement on Thursday comes off as yet another feature launched or was close to launching under the old Twitter regime that Musk appears to be treating like a new feature under his Twitter. For example, the pre-Musk Twitter team had started testing out a Notes feature which offered the ability to create long, article-like posts on the platform. In November, when Musk shared his vision for ‘Twitter 2.0,’ he treated the feature as his own, renaming it as ‘Longform Tweets.’
So, besides the revenue share offer, what’s the point of Musk’s big announcement for an already existing feature then? For one, it appears Musk has changed some eligibility requirements. While the old about page for Super Follows and the new about page for Subscriptions both say users need a 10,000 follower minimum to be eligible to accept paid subscriptions, users have reported also seeing a new lower threshold of 500 followers when applying for the program. According to Musk, Twitter is also removing another eligibility requirement that required users to tweet at least 25 times in the past 30 days.
Musk takes on Substack
But Elon Musk’s feud with the newsletter platform Substack is also at play here.
Last week, Twitter blocked interactions on tweets that included Substack links and Substack-related searches after the newsletter platform launched its own social media feed-like feature called Substack Notes. Musk’s retaliation against Substack resulted in his lead Twitter Files writer, Matt Taibbi, leaving the platform. According to Taibbi, Musk offered him the opportunity to write for Twitter’s own platform, which Taibbi declined as he already runs a rather large Substack newsletter.
That opportunity ostensibly has to do with Musk’s new Subscriptions push as it offers a paywalled content subscription model that could be considered a competitor to Substack.
One Twitter user asked Musk earlier this week if the company was trying to compete with Substack.
‘We’re enabling users to post long articles & earn income from subscribers,’ Musk replied, hinting at Thursday’s tweets.
The subscription feature wasn’t very successful before
Creator users who may just be finding out about Twitter’s Subscription feature may wonder why they haven’t heard of it before back when it was known as Super Follows.
The reason is simple: It wasn’t very successful.
In the first two weeks following the Super Follows launch in Sept. 2021, revenue from the feature totaled approximately $6,000, according to TechCrunch. To put it another way, after two weeks, the total revenue from all the Twitter users in the entire world who subscribed to any and all of the accounts with Super Follows activated was about enough money to buy one current top-of-the-line Apple computer.
Things looked a little better based on estimates from Appfigures just 5 months later, but not much. By February 2022, Twitter took in a total of approximately $530,000 over the course of Super Follows existence — not enough to buy an average home in New York City.
And note: Twitter was much more picky about who could accept paid subscriptions before. The much more stringent eligibility criteria made it so only Twitter’s most popular users could ask their followers to subscribe to their exclusive content. Yet, it didn’t quite take off.
A relaunch of the Subscriptions feature may provide a bump in revenue, but that might not be quite enough to make up for the lagging Twitter Blue subscription numbers, and fleeing advertisers that have yet to return.
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