Decoding Twitter and Elon Musk’s world: Twitter X, Bill Gates and revenue plans

Twitter Blue was launched in June last year, and Musk expects the Blue subscriber base to increase to 69 million by 2025 and 159 million by 2028
Tesla Motors founder and CEO Elon Musk. (REUTERS FILE PHOTO)
Tesla Motors founder and CEO Elon Musk. (REUTERS FILE PHOTO)
Published on May 09, 2022 04:56 PM IST
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The entertainment quotient is undeniable. Elon Musk at the helm of anything makes it interesting, more so when he uses Twitter as the CEO-in-waiting. A lot is happening with Twitter and Musk, and while there isn’t a sense of finality towards any of it, it’s definitely intriguing. Twitter Blue, Twitter X, Bill Gates, and a continuing tiff with Roscosmos (and the tweets about mysterious deaths), the Russian state space corporation, have been unfolding on the social media platform.

First and foremost, the matters of business that’s to be expected. Elon Musk didn’t become the world’s richest man just like that. He expects Twitter to earn as much as $10 billion in revenue by 2028, from subscriptions. As of now, the product on which the spotlight shines is Twitter Blue, currently available in some countries including the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (India is not on the list for the moment).

What’s included in Twitter Blue? Paying subscribers (that’s $2.99 per month) get access to an “undo tweet” option, access to ad-free articles, and some other exclusive features within the app, including Bookmark Folders.

Twitter Blue was launched in June last year, and Musk expects the Blue subscriber base to increase to 69 million by 2025 and 159 million by 2028. That will likely mean quicker expansion in more countries. India, perhaps? That should help with Musk’s second mission – increase Twitter’s overall user base. Last year, the social platform reported 217 million users globally. The targets? 600 million by 2025 and 931 million by 2028, according to the deck seen by The Times.

There has already been a conversation about how Musk’s era at Twitter will usher in a paywall for businesses and government accounts that use the platform for their publicity requirements. Let us just call this Twitter X for a while. It is expected to garner 9 million business and government accounts by 2023, and 104 million by 2028. Twitter will continue to be reliant on advertisement revenue, but Musk wants it to a much lesser extent. Right now, ads account for almost 90% of Twitter’s revenue, according to the company’s latest figures.

For that to come down to around 45%, Twitter will need Twitter Blue and the expected ‘X’ service to start raking in the subscriptions faster than what Blue has so far. But there could be another way this may come down – advertisers stepping away. If Twitter changes too much too soon, advertisers may simply take their budgets elsewhere. It is important to keep in mind that Twitter also doesn’t have the sort of targeted advertising arsenal that Facebook and Instagram have, for instance.

Bill Gates has weighed in too. In an interview with the BBC, he carefully talked about both sides of the coin as ‘yet unknown’ – Twitter as a platform “could be worse” under Musk, or it may not be. “You know, [under] Elon, I guess it’s possible Twitter could be worse. But it also could be better… So, I have a wait and watch attitude,” he said.

Things haven’t always been peaceful between the two, with several public conversations proving that. A few days ago, Musk asked Gates on Twitter if he was shorting the Tesla stock, something the former Microsoft CEO confirmed (he was betting on Tesla stock price falling) before inviting Musk for a conversation about philanthropy; Musk shot down the invitation. Musk has also posted a tweet with a photo of Gates and an emoji, but we’ll just let that be for now.

But what about data licencing? Twitter doesn’t have much original content to licence, and it may be in for a tough ride with revenue share and fair usage terms if it indeed wants to earn revenue from user tweets by reselling them. Data licencing, as per the latest numbers, earned Twitter $572 million revenue.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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Thursday, June 30, 2022