If Twitter Charges, Users Would Pay: Survey

By Josh Catone
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Author and investor Guy Kawasaki posted a poll today asking, “How much would you pay to use Twitter?” Surprisingly, about 50% said they would pay some amount, the majority thinking the service worth $5 per month. That idea seems so reprehensible to blogger Mike Arrington (probably one of the service’s heaviest users with over 30,000 followers), that he a quickly urged his thousands of blog readers to vote for the $0 option. (Which is why that 50% figure is rapidly declining.)

The results aren’t particularly surprising, though. Arrington himself famously wrote last April, “I now need Twitter more than Twitter needs me.” Many people have come to rely on the service and the networks they have built for themselves through it. So it follows that a number of Twitter users would be willing to pay for the service.

In fact, in an April poll on TechCrunch, about 25% of respondents said they would pay to have ads removed on Twitter if they service started putting ads in the feed (and 50% supported the idea of ads — which might be a better way to generate revenue than to charge end users directly).

That said, a July interview with Twitter founder Evan Williams, also on TechCrunch, indicates that charging casual users is not something Twitter is planning on doing any time soon. So Arrington, who seems to have a short memory, need not worry. What they might be looking at, according to Williams in the interview, is charging corporate users.

Given the results of that April poll, it might be wise for Twitter to instead think about charging for ad-free accounts. Following the Get Satisfaction model, Twitter could likely do very well charging corporate users to remove third party advertising from their accounts.

Would you pay for Twitter? Let us know in the comments.

Another option: transactions. A new startup that launched today Twitpay, allows users to send and receive money via Twitter. The service handles transactions form $0.01 to $50. It takes a 5 cent fee on any transactions over 99 cents, and allows users to promise money to other Twitter users and have the transaction completed automatically once their accounted is funded to above the promised amount.

Speaking of Twitter, remember that you can get a free copy of SitePoint’s The Art & Science of CSS book just by following @sitepointdotcom on Twitter! Visit our Twitaway page for more details. You can also follow me @catone, though I can’t give you any free stuff.

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  • VodkaFish

    Charging power users might work.

    First 600 tweets per month free, then packages of 1000 after that.

    Could be basic, low-cost, and doesn’t prohibit anyone from signing up in the first place.

  • antiquerze

    It would force out those who are not really serious. I would like this addition, it would take Twitter to the next level IMO.

  • Marcos Toledo

    I particularly think that not all people that say they would buy something would actually buy something if that was for sale.

    Ask someone: “Would you pay US$ 5,00 to use Twitter?” and many people will say yes. Then you ask.. “Ok. Please deposit the money on this account then.” and the number would probably decrease dramatically.

    Anyway, it’s my opinion, and your mileage may vary.

  • Anonymous

    No way i would pay

  • It’s preicsely because “we need twitter more than twitter needs us” that what we really need is to support the OpenMicroBlogging initiative started by and first implemented by the http://Laconi.ca project.

    Laconica is more than a twitter clone (its the software that powers Identi.ca, whose feature set surpasses Twitter’s), but the really cool part is that you install it on our own server (kinda like WordPress) and yet you can still “follow” other people whose accounts are on other Laconica servers across the Internet. Think email with OAuth. Hellz yeah!

    As we start to become more and more dependent on Twitter as a communications channel, it becomes more and more important to completely open source the code and the data in the system, and to not have a single authority controlling it. The distributed, federated model that Laconica uses is the only way something like micro-blogging can stay free forever.

  • I refuse to pay for soemthign that doesn’t HAVE to be used..

  • Amore

    Why would I pay? You can chat your friends in YM for free. You can also create chat rooms and invite only your friends to chat there free. The only draw back with YM is you have to add additional step, creating the room, to chat with your friends.


  • Anonymous

    Why? I mean, why use sites like Twitter in the first place? I’ve never seen or heard any convincing arguments for use of such, so paying for it? Emperor’s New Clothes……

  • Mark Nutter

    I recently created a Twitter app and have often wondered whether people would pay to use it one day if Twitter didn’t even charge. I think, however, that we are reaching the point where people are becoming more willing to pay for apps they find useful. I was skeptical of this until I started paying to use basecamp. It feels good to pay for something and get a great service in return.

  • John WOods

    No way dude, too many free services about to pay for one! no way!


  • SMLP

    I think we should all think about what will happen if Twitter don’t start to make some money soon.

    Advertising wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world as long as you could pay to remove it. (i.e. $5 per year).

    I think it would be wrong to charge too much for the service. The best thing about twitter is that it very accessible to all as a broadcast media.

    I understand people views on not wanting to pay but the reality is that unless twitter start to make some money the service will go away. It is not a public service for the 3328420 active twitter users but for most of us it is an very useful service and maybe we feel it should be free.

    Personally I think they should move to donations and be open about how much money they need and why they need it. I know I would give a little to ensure that the service stays free and so that more people can make the most of it.


  • Dan

    I would pay if it were something like $1 per month. Just charge $12 per year and it would be fair to me. If everyone paid it, Twitter should be able to easily pay for its running costs.

  • andy


    And how do users get serious? By trying it out. If the “casual user” is forced to pay, Twitter is going to see a massive decrease in in new membership, which will definitely prevent Twitter from going to the “next level.”

  • ABM

    Free to the user means advertising to offset the cost. Pay equals minimal to no advertising to offset the cost.

  • michael

    Pay? No way – not when there are other alternatives out there…

    I would pay if there was an extra level of services on top of the current ones that made it worthwhile.

  • KamenLee

    I already have one foot out the door anyway, no way in heck I would pay for Twitter… Go ahead and do inline ads like Facebook or sidebar ads like Digg, but if you charge for the service, expect to lose more than 80% of the user base.

    Saying Twitter is worth $5 a month and actually paying for it are two very different things.

    Twitter: @kamenlee
    Web: http://www.kamenlee.com

  • anaman

    i would never pay them. most ppl who have a lot of friends would rather setup their own laconica sites to handle their own twitter like communications.
    twitter is overloaded with completely random conversations. smaller specialised twitter sites are needed.

  • Alex

    I have never even been to that website, but if it is just another social site, when they start charging people will just leave for the free sites.

  • Insidious the Walrus

    If Twitter starts charging individual users, I could see a domino effect happening. A handful of users would opt out, encouraging users in their networks to opt out, too, since they can no longer communicate. And so on, and so forth. All in all, I can’t imagine it would be a good decision.

  • eelcoh

    The question should not be whether the current user base would pay, it should be whether it would be possible to attract new users if these have to pay for the service. I think not. And let’s face it, Twitter might be popular in some circles, but it is nowhere near mainstream.

  • Anonymous

    twittr is the most boreing and rediculous thing on the internet.