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Twitter’s COO explains why charging all users doesn’t make sense

Twitter might consider adding premium subscription features to TweetDeck, but won’t charge all users because the reduced access wouldn’t jive with what Twitter wants to be, says COO Anthony Noto. Today at Code Conference, Noto explained the four characteristics that make Twitter special, and how those guide its product evolution.

“As growth slowed in 2015 we had to come to grips with what Twitter was” Noto told Recode’s Peter Kafka. The conclusion was “Twitter is the best at showing what’s happening in the world”. Here’s how Noto says it does that:

  • Fast – Tweets are instantly publicly available and widely distributed through both its apps, embeds, and integrations with TV shows
  • Comprehensive – No matter what you want to hear about, Noto says Twitter has a strong selection of content about every topic
  • Discussion – People respond to tweets, create a richer and more engaging experience
  • Personalization – Since Twitter knows who you follow and what tweets you interact with, it can show you the most relevant content

Noto didn’t spell out why charging a subscription fee to everyone would conflict with these traits, but here’s what’s implied.

  • Fewer Tweeters – Twitter breaks news first because anyone that sees or learns something important can instantly share it. Charging would deter or disenfranchise some people from tweeting, so news and commentary would slow because it would have to wait until it was spotted by someone who pays
  • Thinner Coverage – Twitter has eyes and ears all over the world because it’s free. But even a relatively low price like $5 per month would be prohibitively expensive to some people, especially those in the developing world. Charging would thereby weight Twitter towards the opinions and perspectives of people and places rich enough to pay.
  • Restricted Conversation – It’s the people with the most marginalized perspectives that can sometimes add the most to a conversation, and often they’re not in the position to pay. Charging would certainly deter spammers and trolls, but also sacrifice the long-tail of contributors.
  • Reduced Choice – If everyone can’t use Twitter freely, people can’t as accurately depict their interests through their following graph. Users could only follow and interact with content from those willing to pay, skewing personalization.

On the other hand, charging for premium TweetDeck features could be seen as a way to help journalists and power users react more quickly to Twitter content, follow a wider range of topics efficiently, contribute to more discussions nimbly, and interact with more content to produce data for personalization.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

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