Elon Musk, Twitter’s new sugar daddy, has tweeted that he plans to impose an $8 monthly charge on users who want verified, blue-checkmark accounts and other perks.
As Musk said in response to novelist Stephen King tweeting that he has no intention of paying a monthly fee, “We need to pay the bills somehow!”
True. He does. Especially after splurging $44 billion to acquire a social media site at a time of diminishing ad revenue.
The thing is: Charging a fee to use Twitter isn’t the deal we all signed up for.
The deal — as is similarly the case with Facebook, Google and other feature-rich services — is that the company serves up all that cool functionality for free.
In return, we tacitly agree to abandon our privacy and allow the service provider to mine our accounts for personal information that can be sold to marketers and other third parties.
That’s the deal. It’s why tech mavens commonly say that “you’re the commodity” when it comes to online activities.
Yes, these sites provide nifty resources. But they’re all about engaging with you and sussing out as much as they can from your digital doings.
Musk is now changing the game. He wants to charge a fee for Twitter and keep making off with our personal info.
Call it what it is: Double dipping.
This raises two questions. First, will Twitter users stand for being exploited not once but twice as a profit center?
Second, if Musk gets away with it, will other big-name sites follow suit? (If they don’t, some investors will feel that the companies are leaving money on the table.)
In return for a monthly fee, Musk is offering verified accounts, priority replies from the company, better placement in search results, fewer ads and the ability to post longer videos.
Is all that worth $8 a month, or $96 a year?
Maybe to some people. My feeling is that this is a lot like what the airlines pulled, nickel-and-diming passengers for amenities and services that once were free.
The carriers got away with it because people still need to travel.
Do people still need Twitter?
That’s the $44-billion question.