It’s been more than a week since Twitter removed legacy verified blue checkmarks from celebrities, pro athletes, and media figures. This decision from Twitter owner Elon Musk was meant to push users towards Twitter Blue, the company’s $8 (or $11 on mobile) subscription service, which is now the only way that a user can get a verified badge on their profile.So, how is it going?Approximately 619,858 Twitter users were subscribed to Twitter Blue as of the end of April. That’s around $5 million per month or $60 million per year.
Where do these Twitter Blue subscriber estimates come from?
The latest data was provided to Mashable by developer and researcher Travis Brown who has been tracking Twitter Blue subscriptions since early this year. Based on previous internal leaks from the company, Brown estimates his methodology for tracking Twitter Blue subscriptions pulls in somewhere around 90 percent of all Twitter Blue users.Brown estimates that there could be between 640,000 and 680,000 Twitter Blue subscribers in total as of April 30.To compare, Snapchat, a competing social networking platform, launched a premium paid subscription service last June and reached 1 million paying subscribers in just two months. Musk’s version of Twitter Blue launched in November. As of mid-April, Snapchat shared that its Snapchat+ premium service now has more than 3 million paying subscribers.And these latest estimates include somewhere around 9,000 Twitter users with over 1 million followers who have been provided with a free “complimentary” subscription to Twitter Blue. The numbers also include users who have canceled their subscription previously, yet still show up as paid subscribers due to a long-reported apparent glitch.When factoring in those free subscriptions that were handed out, the net growth of Twitter Blue subscribers falls in line with previous weeks. Unfortunately for Musk, the removal of Twitter’s legacy verified users just did not drive subscriptions.
Twitter’s chaotic week, part 1: before the legacy purge
Under the old Twitter verification system sunset under Musk, there were approximately 420,000 legacy verified Twitter accounts.Of those users, only around 19,183 had subscribed to Twitter Blue by April 19, one day before the previously announced scheduled date for the removal of Twitter legacy verified checkmarks. Somewhere between approximately 600,000 and 635,000 users were subscribed to Twitter Blue at that point.Around 300 more legacy verified users subscribed to Twitter Blue between April 19 and when the legacy verified checkmarks were removed at midday on April 20. At that point, approximately 19,469 verified legacy users were subscribed to Twitter Blue.By the time legacy verified users lost their checkmarks, fewer than 4.8 percent of them had subscribed to Twitter Blue. Importantly, three celebrity accounts — those of LeBron James, Stephen King, and William Shatner — were “gifted” Blue by Musk himself.Now, finally, with the removal of legacy verified checkmarks, the big question would be answered: How many legacy verified users would feel compelled to buy a checkmark now that they no longer had one?
Twitter’s chaotic week, part 2: after the purge
314 legacy verified users subscribed to Twitter Blue between the removal of the checkmarks on April 20 and the morning of April 21. However, nearly as many had unsubscribed or lost their checkmark pending verification. That brought the net total of new legacy verified Twitter Blue subscribers to just 28 the morning after the checkmark removals.April 22 was a bizarre day. Musk decided to troll a few users who were tweeting about the campaign to block Twitter Blue subscribers, #BlockTheBlue, by giving them checkmarks. This included the infamous Twitter user @dril as well as the author of this article. However, Musk then also decided to give out a “complimentary” Twitter Blue subscription to more than just the original three celebrities. This time he gave Twitter Blue to nearly every user on the platform with more than 1 million followers, whether they wanted one or not.Consequently, the number of legacy verified Twitter Blue subscribers jumped from around 20,257 as of the morning of April 22, to 34,969 just a week later. In fact, the number of free Twitter Blue checkmarks handed out was equal to roughly half of all new subscribers in the same week as the purging of verified legacy checkmarks. When Twitter Blue checkmark cancellations and removals are factored in, there were more free Twitter Blue subscriptions given out that week than the net total gain of subscribers (12,010).
Things to keep in mind about these estimates
There have always been some caveats with the Twitter Blue subscriber data. Brown’s methodology, while accurate when compared to previous internal company leaks, is only able to pull around 85 to 90 percent of Twitter Blue subscribers. However, as of this week’s numbers, Brown believes he has more than 90 percent accounted for thanks to the acquisition of a new, additional dataset. Furthermore, there is a longtime-running “glitch” where former Twitter Blue subscribers, some of whom canceled their subscriptions months ago, still appear in Twitter’s API as paying subscribers. Many still have the Twitter Blue verification checkmark on their profile, even though their subscription status warrants it to be removed. Because the API doesn’t designate these users differently from paying Twitter Blue subscribers, these users are included in the Twitter Blue subscription data.So, when factoring in those unsubscribed users who still appear as Twitter Blue subscribers and the free subscriptions that were provided to big accounts, the number of Twitter Blue subscribers who are actually paying for their subscription is actually even smaller than what our data shows for total subscribers.Sure, we just threw a lot of numbers and caveats out there, so let’s break it down:
Before the checkmark removals on April 20, there were 19,469 legacy verified Twitter Blue subscribers.
Immediately following the removals, Twitter gained a net 28 new legacy verified Twitter Blue subscribers.
Before Musk gifted thousands of “complimentary” Twitter Blue subscriptions, there were approximately 20,257 Twitter Blue subscribers who were previously legacy verified.
In total, there are now around 34,969 Twitter Blue subscribers who were previously legacy verified.
It appears somewhere around 9,000 to 12,000 of those were gifted for free by Musk.
What’s next in paying for Twitter?
With Twitter Blue struggling, Musk is trumpeting a new subscription-related Twitter feature, named simply Subscriptions. Musk recently revealed that around 25,000 users pay him $4 per month directly as part of this feature in order to access exclusive tweets and other paywalled Twitter content. As of now, it’s unclear exactly how this feature is playing out for creators who are not Musk. However, according to Ryan Mac of the New York Times, Musk is encouraging employees to subscribe to users who have enabled the feature and then expense the cost of the subscription back to the company. We’ll soon know how this promotional tactic works out, but it doesn’t sound very sustainable.