Social media’s pay-to-play era has arrived

Like a used car salesman covered in flop sweat in an ill-fitting suit, Twitter is desperately trying to get you to buy what it’s selling. 

Driving the news: Twitter owner/CEO/everything Elon Musk said that only users with the $84-a-year blue checkmark would show up on Twitter's “For You” timeline starting April 15, which essentially means users will have to pay to have the algorithm recommend their posts.   

  • Musk also said that only verified users will be able to vote in polls, suggesting that he still has hurt feelings from the time people voted for him to step down as CEO. 

Musk has framed the move as “the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms,” but it doesn’t take a PhD in economics to figure out that, as its value drops and it begins to remove old blue checks, the real goal is probably to push more users into paying for Twitter.

Plus: Twitter has also reportedly been boosting the visibility of 35 power users, including real celebs like LeBron James and Joe Biden and names only familiar to the deeply internet poisoned like dril and catturd2. Could this be another future perk for Twitter Blue users?

Why it matters: As ad budgets shrink in a weaker economy and privacy initiatives make existing ads less lucrative, more platforms are going to ask you to fork over some dough.

Zoom out: If you’re asking, “why would I ever pay for this?” one digital strategy expert told The WSJ that companies are best served targeting a small fraction of the most clout-hungry users.—QH