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Elon Musk's X Platform Offers Free Premium Features to Influential Users

X rewards 'influential' users with free premium services, including blue checks, to adapt revenue model amidst advertising challenges.

By Alex P. Chase

4/4, 09:47 EDT
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Key Takeaway

  • X, led by Elon Musk, rewards "influential" users with free premium services including blue checks, targeting those with over 2,500 followers.
  • The initiative aims to adapt revenue models amidst declining ad sales, offering subscriptions priced between $32 and $168 annually.
  • Mixed reactions from users to the automatic premium upgrades highlight challenges in balancing monetization with user satisfaction.

Introduction to X's New Strategy

Elon Musk's social media platform, X, formerly known as Twitter, has initiated a new strategy to distribute free premium features, including the coveted "blue checks," to select users identified as "influential." This move is part of a broader effort to adapt the platform's revenue model, particularly in light of recent challenges in retaining advertising revenue. The premium service, X Premium, is typically available through a paid subscription and comes in three tiers: Basic, Premium, and Premium+. Prices for these services in the U.S. start at $32 annually for Basic and go up to $168 for Premium+.

Criteria for Free Premium Access

Musk announced that users with more than 2,500 verified subscriber followers would be eligible for free Premium features, while those with over 5,000 followers would receive Premium+ at no cost. This announcement was further amplified by X CEO Linda Yaccarino. The rollout of these features began late Wednesday, with notifications sent to users, including some CNBC reporters, acknowledging their influential status on the platform. However, X has stated that it reserves the right to cancel these complimentary subscriptions at its discretion.

Background and Implications

The introduction of subscriptions on X by Musk aims to supplement the platform's advertising revenue, which has seen a decline following Musk's acquisition and subsequent controversial decisions. Notably, in November 2023, major companies like Disney and Apple paused their advertising campaigns on X after Musk endorsed a conspiracy theory. The duration of access to free premium features for users and the possibility of opting out remain unclear, with X providing an automated response to inquiries.

Response and Adjustments

The decision to award free premium subscriptions has elicited mixed reactions among the platform's user base. Some users have expressed disinterest or even annoyance at being automatically granted the blue checkmark, with a few seeking ways to opt out. This situation marks a significant shift from the original purpose of the blue checkmark, which was to verify the identity of public figures and organizations to prevent impersonation and fraud. Following backlash, X had previously restored the checkmarks to users with over 1 million followers, indicating a flexible approach to policy implementation based on user feedback.

Management Quotes

  • Linda Yaccarino, CEO of X:

    "Musk said that every account on the platform with more than 2,500 verified subscriber followers would get Premium features for free, while accounts with more than 5,000 would get Premium+ for free."