It’s been only five months since Elon Musk purchased Twitter at what was believed to be an inflated value. But despite the $44 billion price tag, most everyone would agree that Twitter at the time was a valued company. The social media giant offered access to information, experts and even celebrities that other platforms didn’t. And it did so with little commitment required, especially monetary commitment. But since Musk’s takeover, things have changed dramatically. There has been a noted Twitter popularity decline, and the platform seems to be changing for the worse. Thus, it’s worth asking the question whether this is simply a needed evolution of Twitter or the beginning of its demise.
From one perspective, it might be reasonable to chalk the Twitter popularity decline to change resistance. No one enjoys change, and any adjustments Musk would have made would have been met with opposition. But it’s also worth examining the type of changes that he has made at Twitter and their merit. Change for change’s sake is not a great strategy, even for the world’s best-known industry disruptor. If these changes represent an evolution of Twitter to adapt to changing times, that’s fine. But if their impact only results in driving Twitter lovers away, then the future bodes poorly for the company and Musk.
A Look Back at the Last Five Months
Anyone who has ever used Twitter appreciates the major changes that have already occurred on the platform. Previously, user verification on Twitter was something that could be relied upon. However, this has since changed as “blue-check” verification currently doesn’t necessarily mean much. Musk has blamed this on “bots” and suggests changes are needed for the evolution of Twitter in modern times. But presently, many are frustrated by the process and the requirements, resulting in Twitter popularity decline. Combined with a payment-linked verification process, it is likely even more Twitter users will exit in the coming weeks. When Musk bought Twitter, he suggested he would soon achieve a user base of a billion or more. But in actuality, progress has actually moved in the other direction.
Account verification changes aren’t the only shifts at the company since Musk took over. In addition, he cleaned house, firing many executives and reconstructing the board. Much of the top talent that accounted for Twitter’s rise are no longer there. Of course, Musk has assumed the reigns to a great extent while seemingly relying on user polls to guide his decisions. This has led to the unbanning of previously blocked accounts including those aligned with various hate and disinformation campaigns. At the same time, Musk’s domination has triggered the suspension of various accounts providing links to alternative sites. To date, journalists for MSNBC, the New York Times, CNN, Mashable, and the Washington Post have suffered such a fate. This type of evolution of Twitter is concerning as it censors while paying lip service to free speech. These changes have resulted in a Twitter popularity decline with current usage at only 385,000 users.
Proposed Changes to Come
While it seems the changes at Twitter have been fast and furious, there’s plenty more coming. Beginning in April, Musk has announced that only those who pay a Twitter subscription fee will have access to certain features. What used to be free to all will now require a $7.99 per month payment. Those who do will automatically receive a blue-check verification on their Twitter account along with officials and company brands. But those who don’t will not be able to have verified status. The pay-to-play policies that will be introduced will certainly result in further Twitter popularity decline. After all, price elasticity readily predicts that any increase in monetary costs will result in reduced demand. But this policy will also encourage spammers and bad actors while discouraging valid users. It’s not clear how this is a positive aspect of the evolution of Twitter in terms of content value.
In addition to having the ability to verify Twitter accounts, subscription payers enjoy other benefits. For one, only those paying the monthly fee will be able to participate in Twitter polls. In addition, payers will also be the only ones who can access “For You” recommendations on Twitter’s site. These represent the perks that subscription accounts will enjoy. However, it’s probably better to refer to the loss of these privileges by non-payers as penalties. Since these services used to be available to any Twitter user, it’s hard to now see them as amenities. Taking away these benefits will therefore lead to Twitter popularity decline as well. The evolution of Twitter to a payment-based platform doesn’t appear to add specific value to customers. All it appears to do is potentially lead to a guaranteed revenue stream that previously didn’t exist.
Predicting Twitter’s Future
Perhaps for shareholders, the changes at Twitter may appear to have potential. If enough Twitter users choose to pay the subscription to preserve premium Twitter services, positive results may follow. But in all likelihood, some degree of Twitter popularity decline will occur. And those who stay and don’t pay may be increasingly drowned out by those who do. If this is the case, Twitter will no longer be the go-to source of information for all. It will instead become a site biased by the input of a few over the opinions of the masses. If this represents a necessary evolution of Twitter, it certainly isn’t a feel-good one.
Putting information quality aside, the impact of a Twitter popularity decline has to be considered from a revenue side as well. Recent reports suggest that Twitter only generated $11 million over the last three months in subscription revenues. The upcoming changes may boost this a bit as some current users will choose to join the subscription model. But the question is whether or not this will be enough to raise Twitter’s share price. No matter how you calculate the company’s valuation, this revenue amount is a far cry from Musk’s $44 billion purchase price. Thus, even if revenues increase, they’re unlikely to keep Twitter afloat given its declining value quality. Therefore, from both user and monetary perspectives, it appears Twitter is on course for a slow death. Unless Musk figures out how to right the ship soon, the evolution of Twitter may well be toward the graveyard.