In late October, X officially launched its new subscription tiers that range between $3 per month and $16 per month, with perks to remove ads, edit posts, gain access to revenue sharing and boosts for post replies.
But allowing users to pay for perks may further alter X's environment for the worse and whitewash its user-base as a result.
Despite being largely overlooked, X's audience has always consisted of a large portion of multicultural and diverse users and creators since the days of Twitter.
According to Nielsen, in the U.S. in 2018, approximately 28% of Twitter's 67 million users were Black, with 40% of African Americans on the platform.
Which begs the question: historically, who has driven growth on X/Twitter? And how will introducing paid tiers affect that trend?
Will paid tiers drive away X's diverse audience and welcome in a new, uncensored one?
To get a better sense of how subscription tiers may be shutting out an entire demographic from growing their business, MediaPost spoke to Navarrow Wright, the former Meta and BET exec turned COO/CTO at Mirror Digital, a media network that helps major brands like GM and Comcast reach diverse audiences by pairing them with multicultural creators.
Wright speaks to the limiting dangers of subscription tiers, X's weakening value, why brands shouldn't overlook the power of multicultural creators, and more.
This interview has been edited for length.
MediaPost: What do you think X's reasoning is for introducing new ad tiers?
Navarrow Wright: Because of all the recent changes to the platform, it's less appealing to advertisers. So they need a new revenue model. Elon and the team's belief is that the conversation is so valuable that people are willing to pay for it.
I'm sure they will achieve some level of success, but in the new world under him, it's all debatable about what that needs to be.
It's no longer a public company. It no longer has the challenges of adhering to stockholders.
MP: Is there anything Musk and his team are overlooking with this new revenue model?
NW: I think they should be asking who the audiences are that drove growth to make the platform a valuable asset to begin with, as well as how new changes could marginalize those audiences' abilities to continue to drive growth.
MP: What audiences is X specifically overlooking?
NW: Multicultural audiences. There was the whole concept of Black Twitter, right?
A lot of those topics would drive a lot of comments and engagement from other audiences outside of that demographic because it had unique perspectives on everyday occurrences.
The multicultural audience created the value in which the platform was able to be sold, and that audience has been disregarded because the new pay tiers do not create a growth opportunity for them.
MP: How could the new tiers hurt multicultural creators on X?
NW: If I'm an up-and-coming creator who built an audience on Twitter, you've immediately shut out my audience who no longer is willing to pay to see my content.
Multicultural creators usually have a harder and longer ramp-up time to achieve growth. So once you create a subscription tier, you remove their ability to grow and monetize that audience. And their transfer costs are much higher.
In most cases, when people became creators on a platform like Twitter, they did not necessarily do it for the sole focus of building a business. They did it because they had advocacy of voice.
They were able to get people to hear and engage with their perspectives. And I think that value has been diminished.
MP: Do you see X replenishing that value in other ways?
NW: I ran creative product marketing at Facebook for Meta and whenever we launched a product we looked at two things: how does it affect consumers and how does it create a monetization vehicle for the creators who are driving growth?
In X's case, it's one-sided: how does it make money for X? Yet the company still has the expectation that creators are going to put out content even though there's no upside for them.
And it's the same from a branded content perspective, because the advertisers are out. It's less appealing for an advertiser to come to me and say, hey, I want to sponsor your post because you're driving an audience. X, therefore, has lost two streams at once, the ability to drive audience and the ability to monetize. X has not offered anything in return.
MP: What about the value for everyday users?
NW: The lion's share of people who were on X for discourse and conversation -- it forces them to reevaluate whether paying $3 is valuable enough. ButI don't see the value in any of the tiers for consumers.
MP: Who do you think will pay for X's highest-cost Premium tier?
NW: When Musk first purchased Twitter, it was about making the platform an open marketplace.
X may have done some research behind the scenes and found that its loyalists love the open discourse enough to pay $16 per month to be free and uncensored. But we all know what that looks like and the problems it creates.
That's a microcosm of the world that many of us don't really want to hear from. So even if the numbers are there, the environment becomes even less appealing to advertisers.
MP: So X's paid tiers are leaving multicultural creators with less monetization opportunities and a more hostile environment?
NW: Yes. A lot of this type of extremist rhetoric is against them and what they believe in, and the audience of their peers they were growing has left because they're not going to pay for that tier. So I think it's multi-phase.
MP: How will X evolve in the face of these changes?
NW: X is going anywhere but I think it's going to move into a space of irrelevance, like a lot of other social apps we don't talk about anymore.
MP: Do you think Meta's Threads app will become the place where ex-X users flock?
NW: Yes, if you built any kind of audience on Instagram, you can tie into them directly.
We also know there's going to be some monetization of Threads at some point. It's just not there yet
MP: What should brands know about the reach and power of multicultural creators?
NW: The key point we try to articulate to brands is that multicultural creators are able to deliver your message in a way that you never could because they have a perspective that you don't have. We have to continue to remind people of their value.
If you look at some of the more successful campaigns, they have a cultural lens that speaks to people differently. And that's how you leverage these creators to have that authentic voice.
When it's truly multicultural, it speaks to the diverse nature of who we are.
Our country is much more diverse than it has ever been. So a brand can't be multi-serving without leveraging multi-ethnic, diverse voices.