After facing criticism for his plan to charge Twitter users $19.99 a month to get or keep a verified account, Elon Musk has a counteroffer.
Musk on Tuesday said he planned to charge $8 a month for Twitter’s subscription service, called “Twitter Blue,” with the promise to let anyone pay to receive a coveted blue check mark to verify their account.
In a tweet, the world’s richest man used an expletive to describe his assessment of “Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark.” He added: “Power to the people! Blue for $8/month.”
CNN previously reported Twitter was working to update its existing subscription product, which currently costs $4.99 a month, to include the verification feature, According to internal Twitter planning documents viewed by CNN, Twitter could also take away the blue check marks of currently verified users if they don’t start paying the higher $19.99 price for the subscription product within 90 days.
The news quickly prompted outrage and disbelief among some longtime Twitter users, including author Stephen King, who has nearly seven million followers on the platform.
“$20 a month to keep my blue check?” he tweeted on Monday, followed by an expletive. “They should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.” Following up later in a reply, King wrote, “[i]t ain’t the money, it’s the principle of the thing.”
Musk replied to King early Tuesday morning with his most explicit acknowledgment yet of the proposal to charge for account verification. “[W]e need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers,” he said. “How about $8?”
On Tuesday, Musk reiterated the $8 price point and shared more details for his new plan. He said subscribers would get priority in replies, mentions and search, as well as the ability to post longer video and audio content while getting half as many ads as free users. Publishers that work with the platform will also get to bypass the paywall, according to Musk.
“This will also give Twitter a revenue stream to reward content creators,” he added.
The remarks highlight both how tenuous some of Musk’s initial plans for Twitter may be and also the urgency he faces to boost the revenue and profit for a company that lost money for most of its history. Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion, an amount that he admitted is “obviously overpaying” for the company. He also lined up a substantial amount of debt financing to pay for the deal.
Since completing the acquisition of the social media platform on last week, the billionaire has moved quickly to shake up Twitter, including disbanding the board and firing its top execs. In tweets over the weekend, Musk polled his followers about whether to bring back Vine, Twitter’s defunct short-form video service, and said “absolutely” in response to a user’s suggestion to rethink the platform’s character limits. It’s unclear how committed Musk is to pursuing any or all of these changes.
On Sunday, Musk tweeted: “The whole verification process is being revamped right now.”
Even before the deal was completed, Musk suggested the possibility of tying verification to a paid subscription service. In April, Musk said Twitter’s paid subscribers “should get an authentication checkmark.” In another tweet, he said: “Price should probably be ~$2/month, but paid 12 months up front & account doesn’t get checkmark for 60 days (watch for CC chargebacks) & suspended with no refund if used for scam/spam.”
While the blue check mark has emerged as a status symbol for users, it’s also designed to ensure people can determine which accounts are authentic and which are not, particularly for celebrities, brands and other influential accounts. If Musk were to create a paid barrier for verification, there are concerns it could make it harder to distinguish whether a notable name is a bot or not.
CNN’s Clare Duffy and Donie O’Sullivan contributed to this report.