ESPN's Darren Rovell thinks he knows how Twitter can make an extra $4.5 billion a year

Darren rovellDarren Rovell

ESPN Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell has a plan to help improve Twitter’s user experience while also boosting it’s bottom line: The introduction of a tiered pricing model. 
In other words, a “freemium” business model, where Twitter would be free up to a point, but extra bells and whistles would cost users a certain amount per month or year.

Rovell thinks his plan could help the company generate an extra $4.5 bilion per year. The passionate Twitter user says he loves the service but realises Jack Dorsey’s company is struggling to monetise.

“It has been extremely frustrating to watch Wall Street destroy Twitter,” he wrote on Medium on Sunday evening, just before Twitter’s 10th anniversary. “But what I can’t defend in my support of Twitter is its inability to generate cash flow.”

There was a point in Facebook’s early days when talking heads encouraged Mark Zuckerberg to charge $1 per year for its service. But Facebook declared its platform would always be free. It seems likely that Twitter will similarly never put up a pay wall. But if if you think about Twitter as a media company rather than a social platform, Rovell’s idea sounds more reasonable. Twitter certainly wouldn’t be the first news organisation with a subscription plan.

Rovell says he’d pay up to $100 a year for Twitter and a quick poll of his followers suggests he’s not alone. Out of 15,000 respondents, about one-third said they’d be willing to pay at least $1 for an annual Twitter subscription.

Rovell’s proposal has three tiers: $1 a month, $5, a month, and $10 a month, with benefits that scale to each. Bottom level subscribers will get a mobile version of Tweetdeck, and the option to see two Timelines, one chronological, and the other populated with priority tweets based on who and what you follow.

Mid-level subscribers get all the benefits of the bottom tier, in addition to immediate access to Twitter’s native video platform, priority access to Twitter’s new features as they roll out, and access to Twitters “heat map.” The heat map adds a column to Tweetdeck allowing you to see the most liked and retweeted tweets in real time. 

Top level subscribers, who can elect to pay $100 annually, get all the perks from the lower tiers, are automatically verified upon sign-up, can sell products and services with a “buy now” button, and a 24-hour heat map. At this tier you’ll also get to search all of your Tweets and receive data on how well they did individually, to see what your followers are interested. 

So how does the maths work out? 

Breaking down Twitter’s ~305 million active users into these three payment levels does work out to $4.5 billion, and Rovell himself is ready to pay top dollar. He just wants to know where to write the first check.

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