For years the most coveted status you could attain on Twitter was verification. People who are "verified" by Twitter have a blue checkmark over their profile picture, which means that the social media giant deems you a very important person: a politician, actor, musician, even a journalist (but not all journalists…). Twitter verification was the highest social media status symbol you could attain. Until now...
As Re/code reports, there’s an even higher status symbol Twitter now grants to what it deems to be its most important users: an ad-free feed. Writing for the site, Peter Kafka reveals that "For the past few months, the social media company has stopped displaying ads, or has dramatically reduced the number of ads it displays, to a small group of some of its most prominent and active users."
According to Kafka’s sources Twitter has reduced or eliminated ads for its VIP members to keep them engaged with the service; their feeds only show tweets from people they follow. Twitter reportedly began playing around with an ad-free experience for VIPs back in September when CEO Jack Dorsey returned to the company. It’s one of the many things Dorsey is trying to turn things around at the struggling social media company, which recently saw some of its most high-ranking executives leave.
Twitter has always been mum about how exactly they choose whom to verify and that secrecy hasn’t changed for how they select those who get an ad-free experience. Presumably anyone who has an ad-free feed is already verified—but being verified isn’t the only requirement. Twitter bases it on a "variety of criteria," including the "volume and reach of the tweets" the VIP generates, reports Re/code.
Kafka himself is verified and has a little over 70,000 followers and says he appears to be in the ad-free group. He also notes that his boss, Kara Swisher, who has over a million followers also appears to be in the ad-free group.
For a company that generates almost all of its revenue from ads (upwards of $2 billion worth in 2015) turning off ads might not seem like a great idea. However, it appears that ad-free feeds are being granted to so few users that this experiment can in no way affect Twitter’s bottom line. Indeed, it only has an upside for the company: If an ad-free experience can get Twitter’s most valuable personalities to use the service more often, it will likely attract more "average" users to the site to follow these VIPs.