Elon Musk is now paying some Twitter users thousands of dollars in ad revenue

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“Breaking: Twitter revenue share has begun!” tweeted anti-Trump commentator Ed Krassenstein on Thursday afternoon, who followed up with a screenshot of $24,877 that he said had been deposited in his account. His twin brother Brian Krassenstein, who is also a political commentator and Twitter persona, similarly tweeted that he’d received $24,305 from Twitter.

Back in February, Elon Musk promised he would start paying creators a share of Twitter’s ad revenue, and more recently, the billionaire said the initial chunk of payouts would amount to $5 million total. The Krassensteins’ posts were among several enthusiastic posts from a select group of Twitter users who say they’ve started getting tens of thousands of dollars in payouts from the app on Thursday, seemingly based on the number of impressions — or views — they’re getting on replies to their tweets. The first batch of payments aren’t just for one month, but a backlog of the past five and a half months since Musk first promised he’d share a percentage of ad revenue with creators.

Here’s how it works: Twitter shares an undisclosed percentage of the ad revenue it gets from replies to people’s tweets, directly to the user. So the more people reply to a user’s tweets and ads in those replies get viewed, the more money you’ll get. For now, the only users getting paid are ones who meet specific criteria. They must be a verified user — meaning, they pay for a blue checkmark or have been gifted one — have 5 million impressions, or views, on posts in each of the last three months, and have a Stripe account linked to their Twitter account.

All this means most users won’t be getting paid, and even those who do may not be getting paid as much in the future. Some form of ad revenue-sharing has become relatively standard for social media platforms. YouTube, for example, pays its creator partners 55 percent of ad revenue for regular videos and 45 percent for YouTube shorts.

But $5 million in a batch of ad payouts, and millions more if it continues, is a significant amount of money to spend, especially considering Twitter has allegedly been failing to pay some of its office expenses and bills. As of last month, the company was facing eviction in its Boulder, Colorado, office for not paying rent.

So why is Twitter spending money on this new creator revenue program?

Because it needs the loyalty of creators, who attract eyeballs and advertising dollars to the platform. And these days, especially with the viral launch of Instagram Threads last week, creators have a lot of options about where to go.

“They’re competing with the likes of big companies with very deep pockets,” said social media consultant Matt Navarra. That means Twitter wants to keep creators on its platform, especially as Threads becomes more popular. The Meta-owned Twitter-killer app amassed a record breaking 100 million users within a week of launching, making it one of the fastest growing apps ever. In Navarra’s words, Twitter has “no choice to create such a program.”

But since it financially rewards creators who have more replies, Twitter’s new program could incentivize its creators to post controversial tweets that spark heated conversation. One user pointed this out, tweeting, “The more haters you have in your replies the more money you’ll make on Twitter.” To which Musk replied, “Poetic justice.”

At the same time that Twitter’s trying to incentivize creators to use the platform, it’s also trying to convince major brands to keep spending money advertising on the platform. And incentivizing Twitter users to rile up angry, reply-guy tweets even more than they already might make Twitter an even more volatile place, and one that advertisers may be less likely to want to associate with.

“I’m not sure how good that is in terms of making the platform a happier, safer, lovely place to be around,” Navarra told Vox.

Advertisers cut back on spending on Twitter by 59 percent year over year in the first week of April, according to an internal document seen by the New York Times. This was reportedly because of what they see as a risk of harming their brand reputation if their ads appear next to controversial content.

So far, many of the creators who have said they’ve benefited from Twitter’s new ad revenue share program are independent journalists and political pundits. Aside from the Krassenstein brothers, other names include right-leaning conservative commentator Benny Johnson and podcaster Tim Pool.

For a long time, journalists essentially gave their content to Twitter for free, in exchange for attention on their articles and access to real-time information. Now, with many journalists tweeting less, these payouts seem aimed at hanging on to the journalists who remain, or the new creators who are emerging.

“Next generation of journalists should be able to make a living doing it on Twitter. After many years, great to see it becoming possible…” Twitter product VP Keith Coleman said in a tweet on Thursday.

Maybe Twitter will successfully create a new class of journalists through this program. But they’ll likely be a very different set of journalists than the ones who came up on the pre-Elon Twitter. And for the new generation of journalist creators, there’s some cash to be made on Twitter, at least for now. Whether Twitter will have the cash to keep paying these creators tens of thousands of dollars in payouts every few months — or even more often — has yet to be seen.

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