Power to the People — did Elon Musk just save the media industry?

Cosmin Ene
6 min readMay 21, 2023


Elon Musk made headlines when he announced that Twitter would soon enable publishers to charge users for access to individual articles.

Commenters seem evenly spread between thinking this was a great idea and thinking that Musk had got it all wrong. I believe that Musk is (again) lightyears ahead of everyone else because he cares about consumers and content creators and understands they are the nexus of making money on the internet.

In the space of six months, he effectively ran through and tested the two predominant revenue models of the last 20 years — and then concluded in fast-forward that neither ads nor subscriptions are enough. He drew maybe the only conclusion: you need to give people choice.

And then he presented a solution.

Now, if you’ve read any of my previous articles, you’ll see that this is very much in line with my own beliefs — that we need a third monetization model for the internet. Why? Because the fact remains that there is no catch-all solution when it comes to monetizing content. What works for a loyal customer does not work for a casual reader — and vice versa. Instead, there are different solutions for different audiences. By bowing to one solution and pricing structure for everyone, whether it be ads or subscriptions, publishers are missing a huge value creation opportunity.

So, yeah, I get where Musk is coming from. But, as I said, the response to his announcement was mixed. On the positive, a fair proportion of commenters accurately understood the value of single-article purchases, noting that they would provide additional revenue for publishers, offer consumers an alternative to subscriptions, and that they in general represent both convenience and ease-of use.

It’s about time! Pay-Per-Read!

A larger proportion of commenters, however, replied in the negative. The responses that were actually on-topic, fell into multiple buckets, including: “news should be free”; “I’m not going to pay for an article”; “micropayments just don’t work”; “this is another paywall”; “it will cannibalize subscriptions.”

This is a brilliant example of free-of-charge market research that’s actually very useful. And interestingly enough, in many cases, when responders say they don’t like some element of a plan, micropayments are actually the solution. Put another way, micropayments solve the very problems that people think micropayments embody.

Power to the people

So, following Musk’s lead to give power to the people, let’s have a look at some of those responses — both positive and negative — shall we?

People are subscribed out — and only 25% of American consumers even have a subscription to a publishing product. Newspapers also can’t survive on subscriptions alone. That’s one reason the industry is in a crisis. And it is not the user’s job to provide life support.

Right, because even at $2.99/month, most people who want to read the Washington Post aren’t ever going to subscribe. But that doesn’t mean you’re not willing to pay to read an article!

Exactly. Experience the benefits of actually reading what you want. Pay once you reach a threshold of, let’s say, $3 or $5. Wash, rinse, repeat…

You are already paying — with your data. Which is fine, if that happens with your consent.

This is so on-point! By putting important information behind a paywall, access to that information is no longer a right but instead a privilege, available only to those who can afford it. Democracy shouldn’t die behind paywalls.

Great summary of all the benefits of this model: consumers get to choose, publishers get an additional revenue stream, and both parties build value and trust with one another.

No one wants this — but most of us have experienced the situation and we hate it. We’re required to subscribe before being able to read a story that interests us. This results in 33% of users actually canceling the subscription on the day they signed up for it.

And no one is forcing you to! You have the freedom to consume content how you want to. Fill out a survey, share your data, or watch an ad — those are all other ways to access content. You’re still paying, just not with money.

That’s it in a nutshell! We’re not willing to subscribe on a monthly basis to all the publications we come across, but we are more than willing to pay for an article or content from one of those publications if it interests us. Micropayments make this possible, while still enabling committed audiences to subscribe.

It’s a vision that I believe Elon shares with many of us, because it’s unapologetically user-centric. A vision of making consumers happier, smarter, better informed and — yes — better entertained, by removing the obstacles that are in their way when it comes to buying content on the web.

The solution

So we’ve built, patented and tested the solution that provides exactly what Elon Musk is suggesting — for the open web and for anybody who wants to make money with content in addition to ads and subscriptions.

Introducing Supertab. Whenever consumers find great content anywhere on the web, with one click they commit to a purchase and put it on their Tab. Supertab aggregates these purchases and only asks for payment once a threshold of a few dollars has been crossed.

Not ready to subscribe? Want to buy just this one article? No problem, put it on your Tab for 20¢. Want to access this website for an hour, or for a day? Again, no problem — put it on your Tab and get 24 hours of access for 50¢. Using an adblocker when you visit this site? Allow ads or pay 10¢ to access the website ad-free — just put it on your Tab. Want to contribute to an author or a website? Put your $1 contribution on your Tab and only pay when your Tab reaches $5.

After 20 years of ‘everything is for free and financed by ads’, the industry switched to 15 years of what has felt like ‘everything is behind subscription paywalls’. Chances are that content providers won’t have the same time to figure out a middle way between the two extremes.

The new money makers are going to be the ones who start engaging with Twitter, and companies like Supertab, right now and use this model to drive engagement, gain market share, generate revenues, and win people’s hearts. By giving them choice.

That’s what I believe Elon Musk intends to do. And it’s what Supertab is doing as well.



Cosmin Ene

Founder/CEO Supertab. All about giving users choice and making it easy for them to buy content.