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For most people, their only experience with “paid” social media is playing around with some of the premium features of LinkedIn. But, as far as Facebook goes, it’s a completely free experience (unless you want to buy some ads). And the same goes for Instagram or Snapchat or any other social network. But now Twitter and Medium are showing us what the future of subscription-based social media might look like.
Twitter’s paid offering
Twitter is now experimenting with a new subscription-based offering. It’s still in the early stages, but it looks like it is definitely coming. Twitter is reaching out to users and sending them surveys, trying to gauge the popular mood for a paid offering. Like LinkedIn’s power job search features, it would be aimed squarely at Twitter power users – like brands, news organizations and marketing agencies.
As it stands now, the paid subscription offering would cost about $19.99 per month and be aimed at people who use TweetDeck. In exchange for paying that monthly fee, users would get an early peek at new features, as well as some upgraded, premium analytics. While the average Twitter user might be flying blind, a power TweetDeck user would have access to all kinds of data and analytics – as well as early access to breaking news and new features.
Medium’s paid offering
And, for its part, Medium is also developing a subscription-based service. In exchange for paying $5 a month, Medium subscribers would get access to exclusive, gated content that’s not available to the average users. This is more of a gated pay wall offering, where you’d get access to the regular Medium content for free, but if you want to read the best Medium content from the most popular Medium authors, then you’ll have to pony up for a subscription.
New business models
From this perspective, the Twitter offering is more akin to a classic “freemium” model used by software companies, while the Medium offering more like a typical subscription model embraced by the likes of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, where you run into a pay wall if you try to consume too much content from them each week.
What’s interesting, of course, is that Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, and Ev Williams, the CEO of Medium, share a common past: they were both the co-founders of Twitter back in 2006. So it only makes sense that both are embracing business models being used by other media and tech startups.
The future of paid social media
So is this the last gasp of dying social media brands dependent on text to tell stories? For now, it looks like Twitter and Medium have been passed by the likes of Snapchat and Instagram, both of which are poster children for the new generation of video storytelling social networks.
In response, Twitter and Medium are embracing the tactics of the old legacy media companies, who were surprised themselves by the sudden onslaught of social media upstarts a decade ago. And now it is Twitter and Medium who are being disrupted by new challengers.
So what’s next? Most likely both Twitter and Medium will continue to hang on, experiment with new subscription-based and advertising-based models, but see a continued winnowing of their user base over time. Just like people are largely unwilling to pay for content online, it’s likely that they will be unwilling to pay for social media online.