Starting April 1, Twitter will remove the blue checkmarks from accounts that were previously verified but don’t sign up for the $8/month Twitter Blue subscription. No one is really sure what Twitter will look or feel like without legacy verifications. Will impersonation and misinformation run wild? Will a blue check mean anything at all anymore?
News outlets are scrambling to decide if they should pay to keep their journalists’ checkmarks as part of the $1,000/month (or more) “Verified Organization” package or whether to allow employees to file their individual $8/month version as a business expense.
BuzzFeed News reached out to over two dozen major news outlets. Several, including CNN, told us they were still working on a decision and couldn’t answer yet what their plans were. The details of the enterprise offerings were not totally clear to several of the newsroom leaders we spoke to.
According to an email that Twitter sent to BuzzFeed Inc. representatives to entice the company to pay, the $1,000/month enterprise fee comes with five affiliated accounts that also get the Twitter Blue features, plus a small company logo next to the name and checkmark. Additional accounts with the logo would cost $50/month.
The New York Times said that it mostly wouldn’t pay. “We aren’t planning to pay the monthly fee for check mark status of our institutional Twitter accounts,” Charlie Stadtlander, director of external communications for the outlet, told BuzzFeed News. “We also will not reimburse reporters for Twitter Blue except in rare instances where this status would be essential for reporting purposes.”
The Washington Post said that it won't pay either. “The Washington Post will not pay for Twitter Blue service as an institution or on behalf of our journalists," a Post spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. "It's evident that verified checkmarks no longer represent authority and expertise.”
The Los Angeles Times also does not plan on paying. Managing editor Sara Yasin wrote a note to the newsroom saying, “Some of you may be wondering whether or not the L.A. Times will pay for Twitter Blue subscriptions, and the answer right now is no, for several reasons: First of all, verification no longer establishes authority or credibility, instead it will only mean that someone has paid for a Twitter Blue subscription. Secondly, while Twitter remains an important tool for newsgathering, it is not as reliable as it once was.”
For smaller digital outlets though, paying seems potentially worth it. Ben Smith, cofounder of Semafor, told BuzzFeed News that he will allow his reporters to expense Twitter Blue. “If it has distribution advantages for our content we will,” he said. Twitter CEO Elon Musk has said that only paid Blue subscribers (and accounts you already follow) will show up on the “For You” feed, which gives an advantage to verified journalists who want to spread their links via Twitter. “I just see it as a totally practical issue in that sense,” Smith added.
“The value of a blue checkmark was that it said the person was who they said they are.”
There are a wide range of considerations for why an outlet might want to retain verified status for its journalists. A newsroom leader at an entertainment news outlet who was not authorized to speak about its policy told BuzzFeed News that the publication will probably end up paying for verification. Although this outlet is at lower risk for the kind of misinformation that might start World War III, it has an ongoing problem with scammers trying to swindle money out of music artists by pretending to write for the publication and asking them to pay for (fake) coverage.
Geoffrey Ingersoll, editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller, told BuzzFeed News that his organization will probably do the enterprise version, even though he personally did not intend to keep his checkmark. “I had planned to let mine lapse because I have no interest in being nerd famous among journalists on Twitter,” he said. “Ever since verification became a pay-for, it’s lost its utility for me — particularly searching tweets from verified-only people to get a sense of where the media is taking a story.”
The Daily Caller hasn’t decided which people in the newsroom will stay verified as part of the five-account package, and the outlet plans on reviewing the analytics in a few months to see if the payment is worth it.
Insider also doesn’t plan on paying for its journalists’ checks. “The value of a blue checkmark was that it said the person was who they said they are,” editor-in-chief Nicholas Carlson told BuzzFeed News. “Now a blue checkmark just says they are a Twitter Blue subscriber. That doesn’t help Twitter users or our readers.”
Similarly, Politico will not pay for staffers' checks. "In the future, a checkmark will no longer mean you are a verified journalist. Instead, it will simply mean you are paying for benefits such as longer tweets and fewer ads," wrote Anita Kumar, Politico’s senior editor of standards and ethics, in a message to the newsroom shared with BuzzFeed News. "Politico will not pay for you to subscribe to Twitter Blue. You may, of course, enroll at your own expense."
For freelance and independent journalists, it may be worth it though. “I’m definitely paying for Twitter Blue. In fact, I signed up this week,” said Alex Kantrowitz, a former BuzzFeed News staffer who writes the Substack newsletter Big Technology. “I don’t care about the blue checkmark, which might be a liability at this point. But getting added distribution in the For You tab is worth it for me at $8/month, given that distribution is the lifeblood of smaller media brands like Big Technology.”
Beyond getting a blue checkmark, Twitter Blue includes features such as the ability to see the most shared articles by people you follow on Twitter, which many journalists find useful. Twitter is also apparently working on a way to allow Blue subscribers to hide their checkmark, which might make paying the modest fee more appealing to someone who just wants the features but thinks the check looks cringe.
BuzzFeed Inc. (which includes the various accounts for BuzzFeed, BuzzFeed News, Tasty, HuffPost, and Complex) does not plan on paying for or allowing employees to expense blue checks. “As a company, we do not think it’s a wise use of resources to pay for individuals to retain a blue checkmark that is no different from anyone else’s — an amateur medical expert, Elon stan, or otherwise — who is simply willing to pay the fee for a blue check,” said BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief Karolina Waclawiak.
Ellie Hall and Tom Warren contributed reporting to this story.
This story has been updated with revised statements from the New York Times and the Washington Post, and a response from Politico.