Twitter today announced the launch of a local weather news service featuring premium content created by professional meteorologists. The service, called “Tomorrow,” is available in 16 cities across North America initially and staffed by 18 local meteorologists who will create a mix of free and paid content.
Memberships start at $10 per month and unlock access to long-form newsletters through Twitter’s Revue service, as well as paid live audio sessions through Twitter Spaces (a copycat of Clubhouse). Interestingly, paid subscribers will also be able to ask the meteorologists questions during breaking news weather events.
Creator economy — Severe weather events, like earthquakes or snowstorms, are a significant catalyst for discussion on Twitter as users share their experiences and try to learn more about what’s happening (i.e. when will this freakin’ snowstorm go away?). And Twitter thinks weather is an ideal place to begin charging for premium subscriptions as climate experts already use the platform to respond to a deluge of questions and help the public understand weather events as they develop.
"[W]eather is a perfect match for Twitter — some of the largest spikes in conversations on Twitter are tied to severe events like hurricanes, floods and fires," said Twitter’s vice president of product Mike Park, speaking to Axios. “You can imagine paying subscribers getting even closer to experts, using features like Spaces to ask questions before a hurricane or other severe events.”
Paywalled Twitter — Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has made it clear the company sees subscriptions as a new form of revenue, and its platform may be uniquely suited for them. The way Twitter works today, the biggest voices drive orders of magnitude more traffic than the average user. Those creators have vast reach and could make significant money creating more in-depth content for their audiences.
Dorsey said early this year that the social media company wants to create economic incentives for these influential people contributing to the platform. To that end, it has been rapidly launching new products that allow them to make money, among them the aforementioned Revue newsletters and a recently added tipping option. Twitter takes no cut of income from the latter, but Revue takes a five percent fee on paid newsletters.
Some people will surely dislike Twitter moving away from a completely free model. But the new products probably won’t mean that all of the platform becomes paid. Free content will always be dominant — YouTube will soon make as much money as Netflix, for instance. Creators will still need to post free content to attract attention and reach users willing to pay for more.
Twitter earlier this year bought Scroll, which for $5 per month removes ads on participating websites. And a subscription service called Twitter Blue has been in the works that would allow users to unlock premium features like an “undo send” button on tweets. Altogether these offerings could help Twitter expand its bottom line in a competitive market where most ad revenue goes to Facebook and Google because they are much larger in size, but Twitter has a captive and highly engaged audience.