By Arun Kumar Shrivastav
Co-founder Jack Dorsey’s departure as the CEO of Twitter in November 2021 and Tesla CEO Elon Musk buying the social media platform in October 2022 are the two most significant moments in Twitter’s history since its inception in March 2006. Dorsey was reportedly frustrated due to the Twitter board’s indifferent attitude for reforms and progressive steps. Musk undid all that by making Twitter a privately held company but that did not go well with advertises. They reportedly withdrew their marketing campaigns from Twitter within a month of the takeover and hurting its revenues by up to 90%. According to the grapevine, the new Twitter chief, and the world’s richest man, had to bow before some of these advertisers.
A brewing tension between Twitter and its top advertisers including Apple ended last week with media reports suggesting that these advertisers, including Apple, will resume full-scale advertising on Twitter. Over the past two weeks, speculations ran rife over an impending clash between two Musk and Tim Cook-led Apple over Twitter. But musk seems to have taken the lead in smoothing the ruffled feathers of big advertisers in the wake of his hurried transformation of the social media platform.
After Elon Musk took over Twitter in a $44-billion deal on October 28, he implemented massive lay-offs that affected its content moderation team and the department that took care of spam Twitter accounts impersonating big companies. Without explicitly saying anything, Twitter’s top advertisers pulled back their marketing campaigns from the platform in the last month.
On November 29, Musk raised the issue on Twitter, making public the cold war between Twitter and the world’s most valuable company – Apple.
In a series of tweets, he claimed that Apple has “threatened” to remove the Twitter app from its App Store. He even mocked Apple, saying it doesn’t endorse free speech that Twitter under the leadership of Musk is trying to enforce. However, the real issues were more substantial and Musk made no bones in talking about them in his tweets that day.
After removing about 90% of staff, Musk took the next shot at making Twitter deliver on its profit potential by turning his focus on Twitter Blue, a verified and paid accounts service. Launched about a year ago, Twitter Blue had a subscription of $5 a month, which Musk announced to raise to $20 a month. He notoriously asked the team to launch it by November 7 or face instant firing. The news found significant traction with people asking if paying $20 a month for a verified account tag is worth it, after all.
Musk relented and agreed to keep the rate at $8 per month. Now, Musk intends to make significant revenue through Twitter Blue in the face of bots and spams swarming ordinary Twitter accounts.
Although everything was perfect about this plan, there was a major roadblock ahead. Apple, the maker of iPhone and Mac computers, regularly monitors and examines apps on App Store and removes those that don’t conform to its quality standards and other policies.
There are at least two reasons why Twitter might fall foul of Apple’s App Store policies. One, Apple charges 15-30% on digital purchases from apps on App Store. In the event of Apple customers subscribing to Twitter Blue and paying $8 a month, Twitter will have to share up to 30% of the revenues.
In his tweets, Musk pointed this out, hinting that it is exorbitant and anti-free speech (besides being anti-competition).
The App Store offers two options. “Pay 30%” or “Go to War”, he tweeted, and said he would choose the latter. But as per the latest media reports, he has deleted this tweet following his meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook. They reportedly had a “good conversation” where Cook assured him that Apple never considered removing Twitter from App Store.
Apple’s App Store monitoring team checks the apps on its platform and sends brief messages to the developers if they find anything objectionable. Asking them to modify, it doesn’t encourage lengthy conversations with the companies or the developers. If it finds any app trying to circumvent its pricing or other policies even after being notified, it simply removes the app from the App Store. Given this, Twitter’s new boss feared that if he tried to find a way around App Store’s 30% fee on Twitter Blue’s subscription revenues, the store may shut its doors on it.
Another problem that Twitter faces with Apple relates to its content moderation policy. Twitter is the only social media that allow adult content on its platform and after reducing the workforce across the board, Twitter has fewer members in this team to monitor and ensure compliance with App Store’s content moderation policies. Besides adult content slipping into users’ feeds without their consent, spam Twitter accounts impersonating big companies that have emerged as trolls after Musk introduced an account verification plan are on Apple’s radar post-Twitter’s takeover by Musk and its content moderation team becoming much smaller than before.
However, Musk has won back the advertisers for now by his 100% incentive on incremental rise in ad revenue from big advertisers. (IPA Service)