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Twitter Revenue Share on the Way?

Read Time: 3 min

Note: The following is an archived email newsletter, originally distributed on March 1, 2021. Minor updates were made as-necessary. To receive content like this before it appears in archives, subscribe to the All Freelance Writing newsletter and blog updates.


As if it isn't bad enough revenue sharing schemes are on the rise when it comes to blogging and newsletters, it looks like they might be invading social networks next.

While Twitter helped inspire this week's post by plastering their Revue promotion across my feed (they recently acquired the company), a recent announcement at an investor meeting shows revenue sharing schemes might be coming to Twitter itself.

The new feature?

Twitter Super Follows

Like the revenue share schemes covered in this week's post, this would encourage creators to paywall content on their third-party platform, charging people to become "super follows" to gain access.

That might include:

  • Paywalled tweets
  • Paid access to communities (they're introducing a Groups feature as if that wasn't already toxic enough elsewhere)
  • Supporter badges for paying "Super Followers"
  • Premium newsletters (which sounds like it might tie into them buying Revue)

That's not all. It sounds like fleets and spaces will also be integrated into this. And users would be able to paywall videos, images, and other media.

As of now, Twitter hasn't announced this as a direct revenue share model. But as Jacob Kastrenakes points out on The Verge, Twitter's hinted at this kind of revenue stream in the past.

Given Twitter's own monetization issues over the years, this is the likely move forward.

Why Writers Should be Concerned

If this plays out as-expected, don't assume it's a good thing for creators.

Right now, Twitter is a combination microblogging service / social network. It's largely about building connections and networking, but also finding information elsewhere.

In other words, it's a marketing tool for content creators while being a content discovery tool for other users.

This move does what most revenue-share schemes do -- it tries to tie content creators into a third-party ecosystem so that third-party can monetize others' work.

But as this week's post covers, you can do much better as a writer by learning how to monetize your own work on owned media.

Every time you give exclusive content away via a third party, you further fragment your audience.

This is what Twitter wants. They've already explicitly targeted writers in their post on the Revue acquisition.

It's the same old tune:

To paraphrase:

Poor, struggling writers can't possibly learn how to monetize their work by themselves, so we -- the great tech disruptors -- will step in to solve all their problems... while earning a tidy profit from their work without having to create or pay for content of our own.

And it's the same old idea:

  • Make groups of creators ever more dependent on a site, service, or platform.
  • Offer the services to creators for free (or at very low cost).
  • Prop the service or site up as being super-simple, while implying creators are too lazy or ignorant to build their own businesses.
  • Push creators to add exclusive content through their platform, therefore driving more basic users to their door.
  • Have those creators build the base of content that forms the very essence of their business model, monetize it, and offer creators a cut (much less than you could earn on your own if you're willing to learn how, and much less than you could get by selling rights to more traditional clients).

If you've been around the online publishing world for a while, you've seen this countless times (and this week's post gives some historical examples).

It doesn't end well.

Not for the companies. Not for the creators.

That's because creators are generally just a tool for these revenue share services to use.

You're something they can play with and experiment with for a while without an up-front investment in content. When it doesn't work out, they sell the platform or shut it down.

Then you'll have some writers with thorough backups of their work who know how to start over from scratch, re-building their lost audience.

But you'll also have many writers who suddenly lose an income stream (one that usually doesn't amount to much because they're not really set up with your profit in mind so much as sheer quantity for the service). And they give up, losing any benefit of months or years of work they put into the rev-share site.

Just consider this a heads-up that another one's coming. Twitter is expected to release more details in coming months.

Read my post on revenue sharing schemes first so you know what to look out for.

Evaluate any new "super follower" program with a critical eye. And, please, don't get involved with any revenue share scheme unless you know exactly what you're getting into (and how you'll get back out).