ESPN’s Darren Rovell has long been known for his use of Twitter, from his rules to his feuds, and now he thinks he’s solved the biggest issue facing the company; how do they monetize the service? Rovell celebrated Twitter’s 10th anniversary by writing a Medium piece suggesting that the service could get billions in revenue if some users chose to pay it:

Over the last couple of months, it has been extremely frustrating to watch Wall Street destroy Twitter. Some of that is due to the fact that Twitter has done an awful job at telling its story, which has resulted in haters bashing its weaknesses and not many standing up for its strengths. Yes, Twitter isn’t the best for video or to keep up with your high school friends, but Facebook can’t hold a candle to Twitter’s real-time buzz and ability for something great, from a user with a small amount to followers, to go viral.

But what I can’t defend in my support of Twitter is its inability to generate cash flow. In dollars and cents, it’s just not producing what Facebook and, its partner in crime, Instagram, is doing at the cash register.

So tonight, I’m going to start it all off. Tonight, I am going to agree to pay Twitter $100 a year. If I can get a bank account to put it in, I will do it right now.

And while the majority of Twitter users will not be willing to do the same, there are people who are in my camp and there are greater numbers who are at least willing to pay SOMETHING.

Rovell goes on to write that a Twitter poll he took with 15,000 responses had only 64 per cent completely unwilling to pay. He opines that this percentage could be lowered further if the fees were for premium features:

What should have Twitter executives salivating is the fact that 36 percent of people, without any changes made to the platform or promises of any enhancement it seems, are willing to pay $12 to $60 a year for the product. My guess is that with an “up sell” of an enhanced product, 6–10 percent of the people who said they would pay nothing would be converted, which puts us at, say, 45 percent.

…Anyone who doesn’t want to pay will not pay. They can continue to use Twitter as they always have. This is an important point that was missed by many after I tweeted out the question. The user experience that exists today cannot be compromised by a for-pay model. It should only be enhanced. Allowing those that don’t want to pay to keep it that way is important

Then, Twitter rolls out various products for those who are willing to pay.

Rovell’s suggestions for premium features include timeline prioritization, mobile Tweetdeck, access to Twitter’s native video platform, identity verification, access to a “Buy Now” button to sell products and services and improved statistics. While it’s not clear if people would actually be willing to pay for these kinds of advanced features at the rates Rovell quotes, the central idea of a free base service and a premium one has been used successfully by plenty of other web companies, including Spotify and WordPress. We’ll see if Twitter ever goes this route, but it’s an idea that doesn’t seem completely outlandish.



About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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