Review: is Twitter Blue right for you? It depends
There's a lot to like about Twitter's new premium product, but is it worth $2.99 per month?
I spend a lot of time on Twitter. Too much time, even — so much time that I tried (and mostly failed) to stay off of it for a week. What I’m trying to say is that I am, for better or for worse, what you might call a Twitter “power user.” Maybe you’re as glued to your screen as I am, but more than likely you are not (in fairness, that’s probably a good thing).
When Twitter announced plans to release a premium version of the platform called Twitter Blue, I decided that when it finally made its way to the U.S. (it’s been available in Australia and Canada for a few months), I’d give it a shot and write a quick review of the offerings.
What’s it cost? $2.99/month
What do you get? Bookmark folders, an “undo tweet” option (more on that in a minute), reader mode for tweet threads, customization, ad-free articles, and early access to new features
If you, like me, have a gigantic collection of unorganized tweets bookmarked, you’ll probably appreciate the ability to sort them into folders. This is one of those features that you will either use all the time or not at all. You’ll find that to be a bit of a theme in this review.
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In its initial announcement, Twitter included a tweet asking for the ability to sort bookmarked tweets into folders. In the first few days of using Twitter Blue, this has become one of my most appreciated changes. I’ve been using it to save links and interesting tweet threads, just as I had been using the bookmark feature, but it’s nice to be able to sort them into separate categories. Just as you might use lists to sort users into different groups, this does that for your bookmarks.
Why the quotes around “undo tweet,” you ask? Well, the truth is that it’s just a delay. As you can see in Twitter’s demonstration clip below, once you click “tweet,” your tweet shows up on your end looking as though you actually sent it, but with text underneath it that says “Sending Tweet…” You can set the time it’ll remain in that “Sending Tweet…” phase to 5, 10, 20, 30, or 60 seconds, and you can also specify which tweets you’d like that delay applied to (original tweets, replies, threads, quote tweets, or poll tweets).
Your tweets can be “undone” and edited at any point until they actually send (either you click the “Send now” button next to “Sending Tweet…” graphic or the timer runs out). Up until that point, you’re the only person who can see what you’ve sent. Once it’s actually out into the world, however, there’s no “undoing” it (though you can just delete it, just as you’ve always been able to). This is very similar to things like Gmail’s “undo send” option. Sure, you could just proofread your tweets, but I’d be lying if I said this hadn’t already saved me a few spelling mistakes by now.
This is my favorite feature by far. Reading tweet threads can be kind of a pain. Reader mode gives you the option to read them with less clutter. I created the below example demonstrating how NPR’s annual tweeting of the Declaration of Independence looks on iOS in both standard and reader mode. Yes, there have been third-party services that can do this for you, as well, but it’s pretty nice to have it built right into Twitter.
And while my example doesn’t show it, this looks great for threads that include photos, videos, and links, as well.
Do you hate how Twitter keeps moving buttons around on the bottom of the screen on iOS, causing you to accidentally hit “Spaces” when just a day earlier that was where the search button was? Well, worry no more. Twitter Blue gives you the option to decide which icons to keep, which ones to boot, and in which order you want them to show up on your mobile device. You can have as few as two (one of which must be the “Home” button) and as many as six.
I’m a fan. This is great. No notes. Oh, also, you can change the app icon on iOS.
I was briefly very excited about this thinking that it was the ability to opt-out of having to see promoted tweets, similar to how a YouTube premium subscription gets rid of the pre-roll ads (which makes YouTube premium worth it, in my opinion). Then I realized that I glossed over the word “articles.”
Basically, what this means is that articles from outlets that are part of Twitter’s publisher’s network won’t show you ads if you view them in Twitter’s in-app browser. It’s a pretty decent collection of news sources, including places like Vox, BuzzFeed News, Deadline Hollywood, The Atlantic, Business Insider, Mother Jones, Variety, Salon, The Daily Beast, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Slate, Rolling Stone, and The Washington Post. (Complete list can be found here.) One thing that’s good to remember, however, is that you still have to deal with paywalls on the sites that have them.
This feature is the result of Twitter’s acquisition of Scroll earlier this year. If you were a fan of Scroll, you’ll love Twitter Blue, if only for the fact that a Twitter Blue subscription costs a couple of dollars less per month than Scroll did.
On desktop, you now have the ability to click a “Top Articles” button that will show you which stories have gotten the most traction within your network of people you follow. This is another feature from Twitter’s acquisition of Scroll earlier this year, integrating the main features of Nuzzel, which was itself acquired by Scroll a few years before that. This is another feature that I’ve been enjoying, but find it a little disappointing to see it
Twitter Blue will improve your experience — or at the very least, won’t make your experience on the platform worse. The question is whether or not that’s worth $2.99 per month, and the answer depends entirely on how much you use the site and how comfortable you are with dishing out 10 cents per day for features that could have been built into Twitter for free.
In some sense, it’s good that Scroll and Nuzzel will live on and will hopefully remain supported by Twitter Blue subscriptions over time. When it comes to social media companies acquiring other services, there’s definitely a mixed record. Twitter famously acquired Vine in 2012 only to announce that it was shutting the service down in 2016. Periscope suffered a similar fate.
My opinion on the service seems to mirror that of others like Wired’s Arielle Pardes, who wrote that Twitter Blue is great for journalists and people who consume a lot of news. At The Verge, Chaim Gartenberg makes the case that the improvements included in Twitter Blue are welcome… but that it’s a stretch to say they belong behind a paywall. Slate’s Allegra Frank argues that Twitter missed an opportunity to roll out improvements to the site’s safety features. All three reviews are worth checking out and considering.
As for me, I’ll probably give Twitter Blue a 3-6 month trial. Let’s see what happens from there.