I paid for Twitter Blue (aka X Premium) for six months. Was it worth it?

Let's look at the numbers.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor
X logo
Ismail Kaplan/Anadolu via Getty Images

Back in the day, Twitter was a strategic resource for me. It was a very valuable way to interact with my audiences, and I often had fascinating conversations. Readers corrected errors, answered questions, and pointed me to new and interesting things to investigate.

But then things changed for Twitter around the end of 2022. You all know the story, so I'm not going to rehash old news. Then, in early 2023, I noticed my engagement with readers had started to crash. The company announced that only tweets from "verified" accounts would be eligible to be placed in the For You feed, which is where most people see new tweets.

Also: Have 10 hours? IBM will train you in AI fundamentals - for free

So, in June, I decided to sign up for what was then called Twitter Blue. For $8/month, I not only got the once-coveted Blue Checkmark of Awesomeness, my tweets would also once again be visible to my readers.

When I checked back into performance after a month, it was clear that my engagement numbers had recovered. It seemed that Twitter Blue did, indeed, perform.

But that was then. This is now.

X marks the spot

First, Twitter isn't Twitter anymore. It's now X. I can't say I like that change. I'm not sure anyone really does. But that's what it is.

And Twitter Blue isn't Twitter Blue anymore either. Thankfully, it's also not X Blue, because that would have a bit too much of a pornish ring to it. Not something you want to see on a credit card statement. No, Twitter Blue is now X Premium.

Except, as of October, there are now three categories of X Premium: X Premium Basic, X Premium (just premium), and X Premium+. According to the company:

  • Basic: Includes essential Premium features like editing posts, longer posts and longer video uploads, reply prioritization, text formatting, bookmark folders, custom app icons, and more.
  • Premium: Includes all Basic features plus a checkmark, reduced ads, access to apply for ads revenue sharing and creator subscriptions, larger reply prioritization, ID verification, Media Studio and more.
  • Premium+: Includes all Premium features with additional benefits like no ads in the For You and Following timelines, largest reply prioritization, and access to Grok. Grok access is currently limited to Premium+ subscribers in limited territories.

Notice that there's no mention of added visibility in the "For You" section at all.

X Premium Basic is $3/month, X Premium Premium is $8/month, and X Premium Premium+ is $16/month. Only Premium+ members get access to X's Grok AI, which ZDNET's Lance Whitney bravely evaluated.

Also: I tried X's 'anti-woke' Grok AI chatbot. The results were the opposite of what I expected

My $8/month Twitter Blue subscription has morphed into my $8/month X Premium subscription.

X Premium performance

So, was my fifty-buck expense (okay, $48 over six months) worth it? I don't think so. Let's look at the numbers. Here's where I last left it. As you can see, engagement went up shortly after I signed up for Twitter Blue.

David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Now, here's performance for the full year:

David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Let's deconstruct this thing. First, this is a measure of the overall impressions my Twitter account got over the year. As you can see, it shot up right after I signed up for Twitter Blue in June.

But it also collapsed right after X added the X Premium+ and X Basic tiers to their Premium plan at the end of October.

Also: The rise and fall of Usenet: How the original social media platform came to be

Now, my tweet activity could have driven the drop in numbers as much as anything else, but I've been tweeting just as actively as before, and the articles I've been tweeting out have been very popular on ZDNET, so I would guess they'd be as interesting to my Twitter/X audience.

Here's another metric. Over the year, I gained a net total of 70 new followers, taking my follower count from 22.7K to 22.8K. It's nice to have an increase in followers, but it's sure not all that much, especially given what's supposed to be increased exposure.

My verdict

There is one more metric that is probably the most important of them all: how much actual constructive interaction have I had with my audiences?

Short answer: not a heck of a lot.

Over the years, I've had a couple of great conversations with followers every week, along with almost daily interactions that were pleasant, but which I wouldn't characterize as conversations.

Also: Bluesky vs. Threads vs. Mastodon: If you leave Twitter, where will you go?

This year: nada. Nothing. It's like X is a ghost town. Sure, the numbers are there. But the real people don't appear to be. I find it disappointing as heck, especially since Blue Sky, Mastadon, Threads, and all the other Twitter wannabes haven't really become viable substitute solutions for me.

A hundred bucks or so a year isn't a bad price for access to a vibrant audience. But since Twitter/X seems to be sliding into irrelevance, I can't see continuing to pay the $8/month fee for Premium. My renewal date is tomorrow, and I'm canceling today.

The rest of the story

I canceled, then immediately ran into a snag. I regularly use Twitter/X to reach out to folks via direct message, whether that be the support departments for companies or other users. It turns out that if you want to direct message someone who doesn't follow you, X will no longer allow it unless you have a Premium or Premium+ account.

This is not clearly specified in the features of Premium. The company does say that Premium allows for "encrypted direct messages," but it says that "Premium subscribers can initiate encrypted direct messages with other premium accounts." I was blocked from initiating a direct message with a non-premium account, a message that was important to send.

Also: Bluesky now lets you view profiles and posts without logging in

So I resubscribed to the X Premium service. Unfortunately, the company does not appear to retain any of the personally identifying information it required to get Twitter Verified status, so even though I resubscribed a day later, I still have to send it my ID and jump through the hoops again.

I'm not thrilled with keeping the X Premium service for the reasons described earlier in this article. But it is, at least for me, a necessary cost of doing business right now.

What about you? Are you still using Twitter/X? Did you sign up for one of the Premium plans? If you're not using X anymore, what are your social networks of choice? Let us know in the comments below.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to subscribe to my weekly update newsletter on Substack, and follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

Editorial standards