Over at The New Yorker there’s an excellent review today of a new book entitled, Free: The Future Of A Radical Price. The article makes some worthy points about the ‘value’ of free in light of the strong endorsement made by the book’s author and is a recommended read. (Seth Godin also recently shared his thoughts.)
I really like the observation that “free is just another price”. Twitter, of course, is a free product. It’s not too radical a proposition to suggest that if Twitter had carried a service fee from day one I almost certainly wouldn’t be writing about it now.
But Twitter needs money, and right now the business plan isn’t exactly forthcoming. One way for the platform to generate some much-needed revenue would be to charge for a premium version of the service. This would be entirely opt-in, but ‘pro-Twitter’ users might receive extras such as
- A bigger share of Twitter’s API
- A 30-second edit window for tweets
- A once-daily email digest of new followers
- Block management
- Better personal messaging capabilities
- Spam filters
- 24/7 technical support
and so on. This would be billed monthly and would carry a nominal price – maybe $9.99/month. Maybe $4.99. If you cancelled your subscription or your cheque bounced, Twitter dropped you back down to the ‘basic’ version of the service. Nothing was lost except your ability to tap into those extra features.
For everybody who didn’t want to pay, Twitter would simply carry on as is; they wouldn’t see any difference in the network at all, beyond Twitter’s standard platform updates. This is critical – there cannot be an obvious void on the front-end of Twitter (the stream) that in any way penalises the non-payer.
There will be many features that I haven’t mentioned that are important to you. That’s how I would like you to think about the question in this poll – if Twitter introduced a premium service that had the extra features you wanted – you is italicised because that’s the key part – would you pay for it? This is a simple yes/no game – you’d either pay for these extras, or you’d never pay, no matter what goodies came with a premium Twitter account.
Please feel free to expand on your answer in the comments area. In fact, I really encourage it – I’m very curious as to whether this could ever be a viable business model for Twitter.
Me? I’d be happy to pay a small monthly fee. It’s not unusual for free online services to carry a ‘pro’ alternative and I think it would be a great way for Twitter to generate some of that essential cash. But different people have different needs, and I wonder if there are enough of ‘me’ out there to make this work.
UPDATE: I’m going to add any interesting feature suggestions to my list as and when they’re made.