Elon Musk announced on Saturday a plan for the Twitter platform that would allow media publishers to charge users article-by-article in one click.
“This allows users who don’t subscribe monthly to pay a higher fee to read each passing article,” the billionaire businessman said on Twitter, adding, “This should be a big win for media organizations and for the public”. He added that the plan will start appearing next month, but didn’t provide details on exact pricing or what percentage the Twitter platform will charge.
The announcement comes as Musk struggles to make Twitter profitable amid controversial plans.
Media organizations have long struggled to create reliable subscription plans to cover operational costs, even as readers have become accustomed to free news on the Internet.
The challenge for Musk is how to make the micro-pay-for-content approach work where others have failed.
British journalist James Poole reported in the Columbia Journalism Review on a number of problems with micropayments, an idea which, according to him, “certainly had big publishers around the world”.
Many users will immediately walk away once they hit a pay-to-read system, and publishers “largely” like to sign up for permanent subscribers, because that earns them a lot more ad revenue than the roughly 20 cents per article they read.
And many people on Twitter raised other objections, as some felt that reading by article would encourage “click bait” to lure readers with deceptive headlines, and you could be favoring big publishers over small ones, plus it’s not unclear whether the writers will also share the proceeds with the publishers.
But others on Twitter reacted positively to the plan. “Great idea,” Greg Autry tweeted, adding: “As a regular columnist for publications like Forbes, Foreign Policy and Ad-Astra, I often get frustrated when my work ends up behind a payment system that my followers don’t want to subscribe to. This is the right solution.”
Carlos Gil, author of a book on marketing, tweeted: “Finally, pay-per-view in the world of news won’t make you feel like you’re buying beer in an overpriced stadium. Get your articles on demand now and keep going your happy wallet.”