Will Twitter actually help creators monetize their content?

Like every other social platform, Twitter is courting the creator economy.

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Let’s jump right into it…

Digiday: Twitter’s revved-up product focus piques publisher, advertiser interest

From the article:

Perhaps the most compelling question surrounding Twitter’s product announcements …concerns subscriber revenue. Most platforms right now are racing — and spending — to show that they can deliver a hospitable environment for creators, and Twitter has gone no different, giving users the chance to sell exclusive access to content (via Super Follows), accept direct donations (via Tip Jar) and competitively build complementary businesses with their audiences (via Revue).

“They’re playing to their strengths,” said Matt Navarra, a consultant who specializes in social platforms and strategy. “They’re building products and features around the typical usage patterns they see on their platform, finding those tools to help [creators] make a living without having to rely [on] multiple services; you don’t need to have a Twitter account and a Patreon account now.”

I’ve noted in this newsletter recently that nearly every major tech platform is offering monetization opportunities for creators — opportunities that range from revenue sharing to subscriptions to tip jars. Twitter was slow to the creator monetization front, but it’s quickly rolled out a bevy of new products that will help its users generate revenue directly from the company. Let’s walk through these different tools and assess their potential:

Revue: I think this has the potential to be Twitter’s best monetization tool. Journalists are already addicted to Twitter but have mostly leveraged it to send traffic to off-platform content, whether it’s the publications they work for or their Substack newsletter. Revue will allow Twitter to capture more of that value. I also think there’s huge potential to build out a newsletter advertising product that writers can opt into for further monetization.

Super Follows: This is Twitter’s upcoming product that will allow paying subscribers to access paywalled tweets, among other things. I’m skeptical that many users will pay just for tweets, but I could envision a great integration with a Revue subscription. Imagine you’re an entertainment journalist who writes a Revue newsletter, and as one of your perks you allow subscribers to access your live tweeting of your favorite TV show. Or if you a run a finance-focused newsletter, you could give subscribers access to your live tweeting of a quarterly earnings call.

Tip jar: Twitter rolled out the ability to tip individual users the other week, and though lots of people implemented the feature, I haven’t seen any reports of it generating meaningful revenue. From what I’ve read, tipping features are more successful during live video broadcasts where creators can give shoutouts to supporters in real time.

Twitter Spaces: Twitter’s been experimenting with its Clubhouse clone for a few months now, and just recently it announced the ability to charge admission to these live events. From what I’ve read, Twitter’s done a pretty good job of copying Clubhouse’s features, but I’m skeptical that a lot of users are scrambling to pay to access what is essentially a live conference call. However, I do think this would be yet another great product to roll up into a Revue/Super Like/Spaces subscription. Again, imagine a writer who runs an entertainment newsletter, and one of the perks for subscribers is that they’re all able to join a Twitter Space to discuss a TV episode after it’s aired.

Scroll: Twitter recently purchased Scroll, a platform that allows you to pay to access news websites without ads. I have no idea how this fits into Twitter's core offerings, and any analyst who pretends to understand this acquisition is lying to you.

Video: I think video is Twitter’s most underrated product given how often they go viral on the platform. For years, Twitter’s been running pre-roll ads in the videos published by select media partners, and it’s reportedly looking to expand this type of monetization to more creators. I think there’s a huge opportunity there, but Twitter should jettison the pre-roll ads. A video only has a few seconds to catch someone’s eye in the feed, and nobody is going to pause long enough for an ad to finish running. Twitter should follow Facebook’s lead and only allow midroll ads.

Hardly any of these features existed a year ago, so it’s clear that creator monetization is a big priority for Twitter moving forward. I think the true question is whether it can create a seamless experience that allows a writer’s fans to access their newsletters, paywalled tweets, and Twitter Spaces under a single subscription. Then it’ll have a truly differentiated product from Substack or Patreon.

My latest: This Canadian media startup scaled its local news model to 34 regions

The Discourse has expanded its presence to six Canadian regions. It also launched a subsidiary that licenses its software to other local news startups. All together, the company powers 34 publications that serve 12 million people.

That article about The Discourse I linked to above?

Let me talk little about what went into writing it. I first had to interview three sources from the company, which took a total of about two hours. I then transcribed the interviews, making sure to highlight quotes and facts that I could later incorporate into the article. Next, I spent a few hours reading through articles published by The Discourse so I could get a sense of its journalism. And then finally I sat down to write the piece. I’m a slow writer (averaging 300 words an hour), so it took me about seven hours to write all 2,100 words.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because the work I do here is labor intensive, and the only way I make any money from it is through paid subscriptions to this newsletter. If you feel like I provide value to your career as a content creator, please consider becoming a paid subscriber. Click on the link below and get 20% off for your first year:

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Amplifi Media: Podcast Subscriptions Insights with NPR’s Joel Sucherman

An NPR executive goes deep on how the organization plans to approach paid podcast subscriptions within Spotify and Apple. From the interview:

First, most NPR Podcasts will be available, sponsorship free, as an exclusive benefit of being a new member of your local NPR member station. In addition to sponsorship free, we expect to offer bonus content. Maybe it's going to be live events with the hosts when we're able to be live again or virtual live events, and maybe it's swag at the NPR shop. We're going to experiment with some things down the road. At launch, it's uninterrupted listening.

So to recap: If you become a member of your local radio station, you automatically get access to NPR’s subscriber-only podcasts. It’s unclear to me how this will actually work — like how will Apple be able to connect the dots that you’re a station member? It’s also an open question as to whether most public radio donors will even take advantage of this opportunity. I’m guessing NPR’s reasoning for this was to appease its member stations, many of which view podcasting as a threat to their bottom line.

Though Sucherman hints at the possibility of extra bonus content, NPR will merely be offering ad-free episodes at the start. Normally I’d be skeptical that this would be enough of an enticement to convert a free listener into a paid subscriber, but then again NPR has spent the past 50 years perfecting the art of guilting listeners into giving them money, and my guess is that they’ll employ these same dark arts when pushing listeners toward paid subscriptions.

Want to interact with me directly?

I have a private Facebook group that I only promote in this newsletter. It’s filled with 500 creators who, like me, are obsessed with media. I chime in on pretty much every comment and post. You can join here. [Facebook]

FAIR: The New Podcast Oligopoly

This is a pretty comprehensive overview of all the consolidation that’s occurred in the podcast industry over the past few years.

The average consumer probably hasn't heard of Liberty Media, but it owns SiriusXM, Pandora, Stitcher AND 41% of iHeartMedia. That's just a massive audio footprint.

Does Medium actually help you build an audience?

In September 2020, I started cross-posting some of my longform articles to Medium. Between then and now, I’ve published 28 articles to the platform. Why did I do this? Two reasons:

Monetization: I placed my articles behind Medium’s metered paywall with the hope that I could generate some additional revenue. While Substack is my main monetization channel, I thought Medium might provide the opportunity to diversify my business without cannibalizing my subscription growth.

Audience development: Given Medium’s huge scale, I thought that it might help me grow this newsletter. At the end of each article I posted a call-to-action encouraging readers to sign up.

So what kind of results did I see? I posted about them in a recent Twitter thread. Spoiler alert: I was not impressed. [Twitter]

Medium: He built a massively popular newsletter by syndicating it to media outlets

Ernie Smith’s newsletter Tedium often gets the kind of exposure that most indie newsletter writers can only dream of. It’s been featured in an episode of the hit NPR podcast Planet Money. Its individual issues have been syndicated in Vice, Atlas Obscura, and Popular Mechanics. I interviewed him about how he secures these syndication deals.

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Simon Owens is a tech and media journalist living in Washington, DC. Follow him on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn. Email him at simonowens@gmail.com. For a full bio, go here.