Commentary

Twitter Bets More On Subscriptions With Scroll Acquisition

Publishers aren't the only media businesses that see a future in subscriptions. Social media company Twitter also wants to expand subscription sales, as seen with this week's announcement that it had acquired Scroll.
The 4-year-old startup charges readers a fee of $5 a month to see news and articles from publishers, but without the advertising. Scroll distributes payments to publishers, based on how much of their journalism is read. It claims those media outlets can earn more revenue than they do from advertising.
The Atlantic, USA Today, BuzzFeed, Insider and The Philadelphia Inquirer are among the publishers that distribute content through Scroll, along with Vox Media and G/O Media's websites.
"We plan to include Scroll as part of an upcoming subscription offering we’re currently exploring," Mike Park, vice president of product at Twitter, said in a blog post announcing the acquisition, though it didn't mention the terms of the deal.
It's telling that Twitter sees growth potential in the subscription business, considering its ad revenue expanded by 32% from a year earlier to almost $900 million in the first three months of the year. Of course, it was among the digital media companies that had an easy comparable with the first half of 2020, when the pandemic triggered a pullback in ad spending.
Twitter's ambitions for its subscription business have taken shape in the past few months. In January, the company bought Revue, an email newsletter platform that was a competitor to Substack, with plans to collect a 5% commission on subscriptions.
The following month, Twitter said it would add a "Super Follows" feature to let publishers and independent creators monetize their content by putting it behind a paywall. This week, the company announced plans to add ticketing to Spaces, its answer to social audio app Clubhouse, to let hosts of live audio chatrooms charge an entry fee to listeners.
Twitter's moves come as various companies, including Facebook, Apple and Spotify, announce plans to give people more ways to make money by creating content, whether it's an email newsletter, podcast or virtual event — basically, anything that can charge a subscription.

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