Musk Hints at $8 a Month for Verified Twitter Accounts In a series of tweets, he wrote the social-media company needs to pay the bills without relying on advertisers

microsoft, musk hints at $8 a month for verified twitter accounts  in a series of tweets, he wrote the social-media company needs to pay the bills without relying on advertisers

Musk has said he wants Twitter to rely more on paid subscriptions than on advertising. REUTERS

Elon Musk is looking to quickly boost Twitter Inc.'s revenue by embracing subscriptions, aiming to make the social-media company less dependent on digital ads as Madison Avenue signals a cautious stance toward the site after the billionaire's takeover.

Mr. Musk has been saying since before completing his $44 billion takeover of Twitter that it needs to rely less on the digital advertising dollars that account for nearly 90% of its total sales.

Twitter and its competitors have considered or dabbled with subscriptions as an additional revenue source, but they haven’t yet amounted to sizable income for most companies.

Mr. Musk signaled in several tweets that he was leaning toward an $8-per-month subscription offering.

Subscriptions would help make Twitter less ad reliant, he said.

This week, two large advertising companies recommended that their clients temporarily hold off on advertising on Twitter, adding urgency to Mr. Musk’s efforts to identify alternative revenue sources.

Both Interpublic Group of Cos. and Havas Media have urged their clients to pause their Twitter ads because of concerns about the company’s ability to monitor its content, according to people familiar with the situation.

Mr. Musk has begun meeting with top advertising executives to try to reassure them about the direction of Twitter and has offered to meet with clients directly, according to people familiar with the matter.

Twitter staffers reached out to several top advertising holding company executives over the weekend to set up meetings for Mr. Musk this week, according to some of the people.

Since the acquisition closed last week, Mr. Musk and the lieutenants advising him have emphasized the idea of charging for Twitter’s user-verification process.

That service, which adds a blue check mark on the accounts of those who are verified, is currently free but only accounts deemed “notable” by Twitter can get it.

“Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bullshit,” Mr. Musk tweeted.

The Musk team’s proposals have generated pushback from some users, prompting Mr. Musk to tweet late Monday: “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers.”

Twitter currently offers a subscription called “Twitter Blue,” which lets users test new features before they are released to all users.

The subscription — which doesn’t include blue-check verification at this time — charges $4.99 a month, giving Twitter Blue subscribers the ability to edit tweets 30 minutes after posting them.

Hours later, Mr. Musk tweeted “Power to the people! Blue for $8/month.” He added on Tuesday that the cost would vary by country.

The Musk team has proposed a range of possible prices.

Jason Calacanis, a longtime startup investor who encouraged Mr. Musk’s initial bid to buy Twitter, tweeted a poll Sunday that asked users how much they would pay to be verified by the app and get a blue check mark on their account.

The poll options included: wouldn’t pay, $5 a month, $10 a month and $15 a month.

Mr. Musk appeared to be intrigued by the idea, replying to the post with the comment “interesting.” He had previously said the verification process was being revamped.

As of Tuesday morning, 1.9 million Twitter users had voted in the weeklong poll. “Wouldn’t pay” commanded a big lead with more than 80% of the votes cast. The second most popular option was $5 a month, which garnered a little over 10% of votes.

Author Stephen King on Monday spoke out on Twitter against some of the proposed pricing, prompting Mr. Musk to respond in a tweet with his explanation why a cost was necessary and asking how the author might feel about an $8 monthly fee.

Mr. King later tweeted: “It ain’t the money, it’s the principle of the thing.”

Mr. Musk said he would explain the reason and suggested it had to do with defeating bot accounts he has long said are a problem on the platform.

Twitter currently has about 423,700 verified users, according to its own figures. If around 10% of currently verified Twitter users paid $8 a month, the company would generate an additional $4.1 million in revenue a year.

At the higher price point of $15 a month that Mr. Calacanis also suggested in his poll, the same take-up rate would amount to more than $7.5 million a year.

Twitter generated around $4.5 billion in ad revenue last year.

The updated version of verification potentially could be open to all of Twitter’s more than 237 million users.

“I think people will pay for certain functionality and features. It won’t be the majority of people, but there’s a small base of people that will,” said Rich Greenfield, an analyst at Lightshed Partners.

If a preponderance of all users signed up, it could add up to meaningful income, he said.

It is unclear how many people subscribe to Twitter Blue, since the company hasn’t released any numbers.

Twitter, which had about $2.2 billion in ad sales in the first six months of the year, reported $195 million in subscription and other non-ad revenue over the period.

In the Tuesday tweet thread, Mr. Musk said that subscribers would get priority in replies, mentions and search, the ability to post long video and audio and half as many ads.

The company also is ending the ability of subscribers to access ad-free articles from publishers, the Journal reported.

Mr. Greenfield said there is evidence users are willing to pay for social-media features they desire.

Microsoft Corp.’s LinkedIn offers premium membership services that can cost more than $1,000 a year, though those are mainly targeted at professional users.

Twitter-rival Snap Inc., which recently launched a paid subscription option that gives users access to new and exclusive features for $3.99 a month, has also gained a following.

Snap introduced the service in June and it has grown to more than 1.5 million subscribers. Features include custom app icons and a black star label to identify the Snapchat user as a subscriber to the paid service.

Evan Spiegel, Snap’s chief executive, said the service is mainly geared to some of the heaviest users of the platform.

The company said it views Snapchat+ as an additional revenue source, not a replacement for its ad revenue.

Snap reported sales of $1.1 billion for the most recent quarter and said it generated “substantially all” of its revenue through ad sales.

The company didn’t break out revenue from Snapchat+.

Trying to become less focused on digital advertising is something Facebook, the industry’s juggernaut, also explored.

Several years ago, it considered pursuing a subscription-based version in which users wouldn’t see ads, the Journal has reported.

The social-media site, part of Meta Platforms Inc., opted against pursuing such an approach, though, because it presented numerous challenges, including whether a person who uses multiple social-media accounts would have an ad-free experience for all of their accounts.

The company decided against the idea so as to not undermine its advertising business.

Mr. Musk already has moved to underpin some of his other businesses with subscription services that can provide a steadier and more predictable income stream.

Tesla Inc. offers parts of its advanced driver-assistance technology as a monthly fee service. His rocket company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, provides access to its Starlink satellite-based internet connectivity for a monthly fee.

Potentially adding urgency to such efforts at Twitter is the concern among some advertisers about how Twitter may evolve under Mr. Musk, a self-proclaimed free-speech absolutist.

“The current situation is unpredictable and chaotic, and bad actors and unsafe behaviors can thrive in such an environment,” Interpublic Group of Cos. wrote in an email Monday that was viewed by the Journal. “At this moment, we cannot confidently state that Twitter is a safe place for brands.”

A Twitter spokeswoman declined to comment. Mr. Musk last week wrote on Twitter that the site “cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!”

On Tuesday, a coalition of more than 40 self-described civil-society groups published an open letter to the 20 brands that spend the most on Twitter.

The letter called on them to suspend their ad spending if Mr. Musk “follows through on his plans to undermine brand safety and community standards including gutting content moderation.”

Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, Yoel Roth, wrote in a series of Monday evening tweets that the company was focused on addressing what he described as a surge in hateful conduct on Twitter.

Advertising executives said they were disheartened about the departure of Sarah Personette, one of Twitter’s top ad executives who announced her resignation on Monday.

Mr. Musk also said he was looking for ways for creators to make money on Twitter. “Creators need to make a living!,” he tweeted.

Twitter last year also allowed some content creators to test a subscription service called Super Follows, which lets their followers pay up to $10 a month to see additional tweets and content.

New revenue sources would help Twitter deal with stalled revenue growth. The company reported sales edged up 1% in the second quarter.

Twitter went private before reporting third-quarter results, though Meta and Snap in their earnings reports signaled ad spending had faced further pressure.

Twitter also needs additional sources of money to deal with debt that swelled as a result of Mr. Musk’s takeover.

The deal’s financing included $13 billion in debt that increases annual interest payments to more than $1 billion compared with about $51 million in 2021.

Alexandra Bruell, Sarah E. Needleman and Patience Haggin contributed to this article.