Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Twitter Blue is losing Ad Free Articles and Musk’s latest tweets indicate further changes


Twitter has reportedly ended its ad-free articles perk that it offered to Twitter Blue subscribers.

On Tuesday, 9to5Mac reported that Twitter has terminated a Twitter Blue feature known as “Ad-Free Articles.” The feature allowed Twitter Blue subscribers to read articles without ads from participating publishers. The cancellation of Ad-Free Articles was apparently announced via an email sent to those publishers.

According to a snippet of that email published by 9to5Mac, Twitter plans to start the cancellation process today, which involves no longer “displaying the ‘Twitter Blue Publisher’ label on any Tweets containing [their] articles.” Twitter will also stop “sending a Twitter Blue token when people on Twitter access articles from [their] properties” in order to block the “ad-free experience” from loading on publisher sites.

And according to The Verge, who published more of the email as part of its reporting, the cancellation of Ad-Free Articles was effective as of October 31 and included the following quote from the email, which appears to indicate the reasoning behind why Twitter would make this decision:

“This hard decision will allow us to focus our resources on adding additional value for our members.” (The Verge’s reporting also confirms 9to5Mac’s earlier reporting that the termination process of the feature is expected to begin today.)

Beyond the email sent to publishers, however, there doesn’t seem to be any other announcement from Twitter about its decision to end Ad-Free Articles for its paid subscription program. The only other indication that Ad-Free Articles is over that we’ve seen so far is the fact that the feature is not listed on the Twitter Help Center guide about Twitter Blue features.

The cancellation of Ad-Free Articles for Twitter Blue appears to be part of a renovation of the bird app’s subscription service which currently costs around $5 per month. Twitter is also reportedly considering having users subscribe to Twitter Blue (at a possibly much higher price point) in order to keep or obtain a verification badge. The possible new price point was reported at one point as being as high as $20 per month.

But now, as of Tuesday, Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk, has tweeted out a different price point for Twitter Blue, which apparently also includes a “blue checkmark” (verification badge). And that price would be $8 per month:

Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bullshit.

Power to the people! Blue for $8/month.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 1, 2022

Musk also posted subsequent tweets that outlined other features that would be included in the $8-a-month Twitter Blue subscription, including the “Ability to post long video & audio” and “half as many ads.”

And paywall bypass for publishers willing to work with us

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 1, 2022

That last perk Musk mentioned, “paywall bypass for publishers willing to work with us,” is especially interesting given the recent cancellation of Ad-Free Articles and sounds like it could be a replacement for it.

As of this writing, Musk’s tweet thread didn’t appear to offer more details on this particular perk (except for another tweet that mentioned the creation of  “a revenue stream to reward content creators”), but the “paywall bypass” tweet seems to indicate that Blue subscribers could one day bypass the paywalls of participating publishers, as part of their Blue subscription. If that ends up being the case, depending on which publishers participate, that perk could be better than just ad-free reading experiences.

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