Twitter may let users charge followers for special access

Kurt Wagner

Twitter Inc. gave the first outline of a potential subscription product that will let people charge followers for access to special content or experiences, part of a broader effort to diversify the company’s revenue sources and give high-profile users a way to make money on the service.

Twitter mentioned a new feature called “Super Follows” during an Analyst Day event on Thursday, which it described as an “account subscription.” The company recently purchased newsletter startup, Revue, and executives have said that they are exploring a way to help newsletter writers build a paying audience on Twitter. The company is also considering “tipping,” or letting users donate money to people they enjoy following.

“We also think that an audience-funded model, where subscribers can directly fund the content that they value most, is a durable incentive model that aligns the interest of creators and consumers,” said Dantley Davis, Twitter’s chief design officer. Presumably, Twitter would take a cut of the subscription fee.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

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Twitter wants to double its annual revenue to $7.5 billion by 2023, and expects to increase its user base by an average of almost 20% each of the next three years, according to a regulatory filing.

The social media company has targeted 315 million daily active users by the end of 2023, an increase from 192 million in the fourth quarter of 2020. The shares jumped as much as 12% to a record intraday high of $80.75 as the market opened Thursday.

The business goals were announced Thursday in conjunction with the San Francisco-based company’s first Analyst Day since 2014. Numerous executives, including Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey, are expected to present updates on various parts of Twitter’s business during the event.

Twitter makes about 86% of its annual revenue from targeted advertising, a crowded space in which its market share is a sliver compared with competitors like Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. But Twitter executives have argued that the company has a lot of room to increase its sales by building products for smaller clients. The company also has been buoyed by a rise in digital advertising the past year as more consumers shopped online during the pandemic. And Twitter is considering other ways to generate revenue, such as a subscription business.

The shares have jumped almost 33% in 2021, despite the company’s decision in early January to ban then-U.S. President Donald Trump from the service. There was concern that Trump’s ban would hurt business, or stunt user growth, but Twitter said growth in January was around 20%, which is consistent with previous quarters.

A third goal outlined Thursday is meant to improve Twitter’s pace when it comes to improving the service. The company wants to “double development velocity” of product shipments that directly influence revenue or user growth. In practice, that means “doubling the number of features shipped per employee,” the company said in its filing, though it didn’t specify the current rate.