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Elon Musk Outlines Coming X Premium Subscription Packages, Including a Higher Priced Ad Free Option



X Adds Lists to Search Results on Web, Providing Another Way to Discover Topical Discussions

X is looking to move to the next stage of its subscription package push, with X owner and CTO Elon Musk outlining two new X Premium packages that will be released shortly in the app.

As outlined by Musk, a key element of X’s new strategy is to offer no ads for paying users, which is based around the idea that X Premium take-up this far has been low because as X has acknowledged, most users never post in the app.

A lower-cost tier will still include ads, but you’ll get access to post editing, longer video uploads, a checkmark, etc., while current X Premium users will still get half the ads, at least within certain app elements.

Musk hasn’t outlined the pricing of the new packages, but you’d assume that the top tier will have to be higher than $US12 per month, in order to offset the losses that the company will incur due to reduced ad exposure. The lower tier will obviously be lower than the current $US8 package, but the question then is will it be low enough to inspire much more take-up, when 99% of X users, thus far, have shown no interest at all in paying to use the app?

In theory, the concept of charging users to access X does make logical sense.

When Elon Musk took over at Twitter, the company was on relatively unstable financial footing, which, according to Musk, put it at risk of going bankrupt within months.

In order to solve this, Musk settled on a solution that could theoretically address several of the platform’s key problems all at once.

  • Musk had made a big noise about bots taking over the app, noting that, in his team’s estimations, at least 20% of active Twitter profiles were actually bot accounts. Part of Musk’s takeover pitch was that he would banish bots, a problem that no social platform has been able to conquer at scale.
  • Twitter clearly needed to increase its cash flow and operating margins, while also, ideally, reducing its reliance on ad dollars, which means that the app is then also bound by advertiser demands in regards to moderation, brand safety etc.
  • Musk also had personal gripes with the existing verification system, because many publications and identities that he dislikes held a blue tick marker of authority in the app. In this sense, buying the platform gave him more power to address what he sees as mainstream media manipulation.

Boosting verification take-up would address all of these key points, and Elon had initially set a target of the platform bringing in at least 50% of its revenue from subscriptions in the short term.

If he could get every active user to pay, that would solve all of Twitter’s major problems. And as a bonus, it would also connect user credit cards to their presence in the app, which could be a valuable step towards facilitating expanded payments and purchases in-stream, another aspect of his “everything app” plan.

In theory, this all makes sense. But the problem is that, in reality, people aren’t just going to give you money for nothing of perceived value in return.

Musk’s first misinterpretation was the assessment that people would pay for a blue checkmark, because of the perceptual value it held in the app. For years, users had been looking for a way to get themselves a blue tick, in order to gain an extra level of importance in the app, at least in an aesthetic sense.

But the problem is, Elon also used this as an ideological whip, as a form of punishment for those that he dislikes.

As a result, in making the decision to also take the verification checkmark away from all the previously approved profiles in the app, that immediately eliminated the value of what the marker represents, because as soon as it was scaled back to only paying users, no one saw it as holding any real relevance anymore.

So he essentially de-valued his own product, almost as soon as he created it, all based on his own personal bias. That’s at least partly why fewer than 0.5% of X users have signed up to pay $8 a month, and while these new tiers will add additional considerations to this, it’s hard to see it becoming a more significant consideration for many.

The other element that Musk has seemingly overlooked is that the vast majority of users don’t post at all in the app, so adding elements like reach boosts and posting tools hold literally no value to 80% of the product’s target market.

Which is why X is now moving to ad reductions instead, in the hopes that that will hold more appeal. But really, most people are used to ads, and are not overly bothered by them in-stream. Yes, some people will pay, and in that sense, it could increase take-up. But I would hazard a guess that total X Premium subscribers will remain lower than 1% of X’s total audience, even with these new options.

That’s also why X’s $1 to post experiment will also fail, because most people don’t post, and don’t want to post in the app.

Musk’s view is that this small fee will help eliminate bots, but it’s too low to act as a significant deterrent for bot armies (who can just add this into their flow-through charges to customers), and if he prices it any higher, nobody will pay.

But again, in theory, it does make sense. If you force everyone to connect a credit card, a phone number, and pay for a profile, that should at as a significant impediment for those creating bot accounts. Cybersecurity experts have suggested that that won’t be the case, but you can see, conceptually, where Musk is coming from, and why he’s taking this approach, even if it has been unpopular and highly criticized.

So what could Elon have done differently?

My argument would be that X’s subscription push could have worked, and might still, if X were to concentrate on providing value add elements for your money, rather than trying to just make people pay.

Businesses, for example, would certainly consider paying for enhanced analytics, which X could absolutely accommodate. Various third-party tools provide analysis of X audience, including demographic info, words in bios, hashtag usage, location, comparative data between accounts, etc. There’s a heap of valuable X analytics that brands already pay for within third-party apps, which X could do much better at facilitating direct.

Building that into its business package would then provide real reason to pay, which X has thus far missed.

For regular users too, there are other add-on options that could hold more appeal. The model here would be Snapchat’s “Snapchat+” offering, which has been by far the most successful social subscription package, reaching 5 million paying users, which is 5x more the number of X Premium subscribers, despite it being launched a year after X’s program.

X could also look to offer ID verification for a price, with an official checkmark for confirming your identity, and reach benefits once confirmed.

There’s a range of options that X could explore, and its subscription push could work. But it likely needs to be rolled out over time, with the team working to build in more valuable additions to entice sign-up as it evolves.

The problem is, after cutting 80% of its staff, X’s development options are limited. And Elon also needs money right now, due to X’s difficult financial situation, which has been further complicated by Musk building billions of dollars of loan interest into the company’s obligations.

The subscription path does, logically, hold promise. But it’s a longer-term play, that’ll require behavioral shifts. LinkedIn, for example, is aiming to reach 100 million ID verified accounts by 2025, and it’s not even charging for that option.

That’s a more realistic target, based on steady take-up over time.

Essentially, X’s timeline has been accelerated too much. Maybe by necessity, maybe because that’s just how Elon operates. But at this stage, it doesn’t seem likely to take, even with new sign-up tiers.

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30 Quick Ways to Increase Your Website’s Conversion Rate [Infographic]



30 Quick Ways to Increase Your Website’s Conversion Rate [Infographic]

Looking to drive more direct conversions from your website listings this holiday season?

The team from Red Website Design share 30 ways to improve your website conversion rate in this infographic.

Here’s the top five from the list:

  • Include as few fields as possible on forms
  • Use testimonials
  • Clearly state product/service benefits
  • Include subscriber and social media follower counts
  • Write clear, compelling copy

Check out the infographic for more detail.

A version of this post was first published on the Red Website Design blog.

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With the end of the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, the creator economy is the next frontier for organized labor



With the end of the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, the creator economy is the next frontier for organized labor

Hollywood writers and actors recently proved that they could go toe-to-toe with powerful media conglomerates. After going on strike in the summer of 2023, they secured better pay, more transparency from streaming services and safeguards from having their work exploited or replaced by artificial intelligence.

But the future of entertainment extends well beyond Hollywood. Social media creators – otherwise known as influencers, YouTubers, TikTokers, vloggers and live streamers – entertain and inform a vast portion of the planet.

For the past decade, we’ve mapped the contours and dimensions of the global social media entertainment industry. Unlike their Hollywood counterparts, these creators struggle to be seen as entertainers worthy of basic labor protections.

Platform policies and government regulations have proved capricious or neglectful. Meanwhile, creators’ bottom-up initiatives to collectively organize have sputtered.

Living on the edge

Industry estimates regarding the size and scale of the creator economy vary. But Citibank estimates there are over 120 million creators, and an April 2023 Goldman Sachs report predicted that the creator economy would double in size, from US$250 billion to $500 billion, by 2027.

According to Forbes, the “Top 50 Creators” altogether have 2.6 billion followers and have hauled in an estimated $700 million in earnings. The list includes MrBeast, who performs stunts and records giveaways, and makeup artist-cum-true crime podcaster Bailey Sarian.

The windfalls earned by these social media stars are the exception, not the norm.

The venture capitalist firm SignalFire estimates that less than 4% of creators make over $100,000 a year, although YouTube-funded research points to a rising middle class of creators who are able to sustain careers with relatively modest followings.

These are the users who find themselves most vulnerable to opaque changes to platform policies and algorithms.

Platforms like to “move fast and break things,” to use Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s infamous expression. And since the creator economy relies on social media platforms to reach audiences, creators’ livelihoods are subject to rapid, iterative changes in platforms’ features, services and agreements.

Yes, various platforms have introduced business opportunities for creators, such as YouTube’s advertising partnership feature or Twitch’s virtual goods store. However, the platforms’ terms of use can flip on a switch. For example, in September 2022, Twitch changed its fee structure. Some streamers who were retaining 70% of all subscription revenue generated from their accounts saw this proportion drop to 50%.

In 2020, TikTok, facing rising competition from YouTube Shorts and Instagram reels, launched its billion-dollar Creator Fund. The fund was supposed to allow creators to get directly paid for their content. Instead, creators complained that every 1,000 views only translated to a few cents. TikTok suspended the fund in November 2023.

Bias as a feature, not a bug

The livelihoods of many fashion, beauty, fitness and food creators depend on deals brokered with brands that want these influencers to promote goods or services to their followers.

Yet throughout the creator economy, people of color and those identifying as LGBTQ+ have encountered bias. Unequal and unfair compensation from brands is a recurring issue, with one 2021 report revealing a pay gap of roughly 30% between white creators and creators of color.

Along with brand biases, platforms can exacerbate systemic bias. Creator scholar Sophie Bishop has demonstrated how nontransparent algorithms can categorize “desirability” among influencers along lines of race, gender, class and sexual orientation.

Then there’s what creator scholar Zoë Glatt calls the “intimacy triple bind”: Marginalized creators are at higher risk of trolling and harassment, they secure lower fees for advertising, and they are expected to divulge more personal details to generate more engagement and revenue.

Couple these precarious conditions with the whims and caprices of volatile online communities that can turn beloved creators into villains in the blink of a text or post, and even the world’s most successful creators live on a precipice of losing their livelihoods.

Food influencer Larry Mcleod, 47, better known on social media as Big Schlim, reviews the restaurant Shellfish Market in Washington, D.C.
Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Rumblings of solidarity

Unlike their counterparts in the legacy media industries, creators have neither taken easily nor well to collective action as they operate from their bedrooms and fight for more eyeballs.

Yet some members of this creator class recognize that the bedroom-boardroom power imbalance is a bottom line matter that requires bottom-up initiative.

The Creators Guild of America, or CGA, which launched in August 2023, is but one of many successors to the original Internet Creators’ Guild, which folded in 2019. Paradoxically, CGA describes itself as a “professional service organization,” not a labor union, yet claims to offer benefits “similar to those offered by unions.”

There are other movements afoot: A group of TikTok creators formed a Discord group in September 2022 to discuss unionizing. There’s also the Twitch Unity Guild, a program launched in December 2022 for networking, development and celebration and includes a dedicated Discord space. In response to the rampant bias in influencer marketing, creator-led firms like “F–k You Pay Me ” are demanding greater fairness, transparency and accountability from brands and advertisers.

Twitch streamers are already seeing some of their organizing efforts pay off. In June 2023, after a year of repeated changes in streamer fees and brand deals, the company capitulated in response to the backlash of their top streamers threatening to leave.

None of these initiatives has yet attained the legal status of unions such as the Writers Guild of America. Meanwhile, efforts by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to recruit creators have proved limited. Legal scholar Sara Shiffman has written about how SAG-AFTRA provides creators with health and retirement benefits, but offers no resources to ensure fair and equitable compensation from platforms or advertisers. Nonetheless, while on strike, SAG-AFTRA threatened creators that partnered with studios with a lifetime ban from joining the union.

And despite these bottom-up efforts, the tech behemoths refuse to recognize creators’ fledgling organizations. When a union for YouTubers formed in Germany in 2018, YouTube refused to negotiate with it. Nonetheless, you’ll see companies trot out their biggest stars when they find themselves under regulatory scrutiny. That’s what happened when TikTok sponsored creators to lobby politicians who were debating banning the platform.

People of all races and ages pose holding signs that read 'Keep TikTok' and 'My small business thrives on TikTok.'
TikTok creators gather outside the U.S. Capitol to voice their opposition to a potential ban on the app, highlighting the platform’s impact on their livelihoods.
Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

An invisible class of labor

Meanwhile, most governments have failed to provide support for – or even recognition of – creator rights.

Within the U.S., creators “barely exist” in official records, as technology reporters Drew Harwell and Taylor Lorenz recently pointed out in The Washington Post. The U.S. Census Bureau makes no mention of social media as a profession; it is invisible as a distinctive class of labor.

To date, the Federal Trade Commission is the only U.S. agency to introduce regulation tied to the work of creators, and it’s limited to disclosure guidelines for advertising and sponsored content.

Even as the European Union has operated at the forefront of tech and platform policy, creators rate scant mention in the body’s laws. Writing about the EU’s 2022 Digital Services Act, legal scholars Bram Duivendvoorde and Catalina Goanta criticize the EU for leaving “influencer marketing out of the material scope of its specific rules,” a blind spot that they describe as “one of its main pitfalls.”

The success of the 2023 Hollywood strikes could be just the beginning of a larger global movement for creator rights. But in order for this new class of creators to access the full breadth of their economic and human rights – to borrow from the movie “Jaws” – we’re gonna need a bigger boat.

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Paris mayor to stop using ‘global sewer’ X



Hidalgo called Twitter a 'vast global sewer'

Hidalgo called Twitter a ‘vast global sewer’ – Copyright POOL/AFP Leon Neal

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Monday she was quitting Elon Musk’s social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, which she described as a “global sewer” and a tool to disrupt democracy.

“I’ve made the decision to leave X,” Hidalgo said in an op-ed in French newspaper Le Monde. “X has in recent years become a weapon of mass destruction of our democracies”, she wrote.

The 64-year-old Socialist, who unsuccessfully stood for the presidency in 2022, joined Twitter as it was then known in 2009 and has been a frequent user of the platform.

She accused X of promoting “misinformation”, “anti-Semitism and racism.”

“The list of abuses is endless”, she added. “This media has become a vast global sewer.”

Since Musk took over Twitter in 2022, a number of high-profile figures said they were leaving the popular social platform, but there has been no mass exodus.

Several politicians including EU industry chief Thierry Breton have announced that they are opening accounts on competing networks in addition to maintaining their presence on X.

The City of Paris account will remain on X, the mayor’s office told AFP.

By contrast, some organisations have taken the plunge, including the US public radio network NPR, or the German anti-discrimination agency.

Hidalgo has regularly faced personal attacks on social media including Twitter, as well as sometimes criticism over the lack of cleanliness and security in Paris.

In the latest furore, she has faced stinging attacks over an October trip to the French Pacific territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia that was not publicised at the time and that she extended with a two-week personal vacation.

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