News Briefs | Angle
The Commercial Solution
Why freeing Twitter’s blue tick by charging for it is a good idea
04 Nov, 2022
AUTHOR STEPHEN KING, never known to mince his words, had something to say about two issues recently. He lauded a court ruling in the US that disallowed the biggest publishing houses in the country, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, to merge. He tweeted: “The proposed merger was never about readers and writers; it was about preserving [and growing] PRH’s market share. In other words: $$$”, and then also told the New York Times: “Publishing should be more focused on cultural growth and literary achievement and less on corporate balance sheets.” The second instance was his response to Elon Musk, who has just taken over Twitter, charging money for a blue tick against accounts. To which King’s tweet was that he would leave the social media platform because they should be paying him instead.
King’s take on both issues might even have some merit if not he himself in the course of his writing career, having earned more than $500 million. This is an obscene amount of money that no one grudges him because he worked for it—the magic that capitalism and markets showered on him but one that he isn’t really acknowledging in entirety. For he thinks individuals can earn limitless amounts without compunction, but corporations must be bound to extraneous factors like public good and cultural growth, which is insincere if not hypocritical.
King’s reaction is in keeping with numerous blue-ticked personalities who claim to find no value in the charge that they must now bear. They obviously have the option of having the tick taken away from them and keeping their dollars but it is probably the idea of having to pay for something that was free until now that lies behind this resistance. And then there is the need to stand out from the masses, which is precisely what the blue tick was designed to do. Except, so far, a secretive group within Twitter decided who to dole it out for reasons only it knew. Paying for the service potentially puts everyone in the same club. There is no exclusivity anymore. Charging makes the vanity service fairer but the vanity itself loses its sheen.
Should you pay for a blue tick then? Almost definitely not unless you want the accompanying benefits like uploading longer audios and videos. The tick might scratch your ego once but soon enough it will cease to have any meaning, except, as Musk has rightly read, in the loss of it. Also, he says that there will be a secondary tag for public figures who deserve it, which is in effect another version of the earlier blue tick. But we must still hope for the success of the blue tick as a commercial instrument because unless Twitter becomes profitable on its own terms without being dependent on advertisers, it will continue to be hostage to what they think is good and bad speech. And that only means more of the same that made it such a symbol of the mockery of free speech, to begin with.
About The Author
Madhavankutty Pillai has no specialisations whatsoever. He is among the last of the generalists. And also Open chief of bureau, Mumbai
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