Free messaging app Telegram is getting into the subscription game.
Founder Pavel Durov confirmed today a paid offering is coming later this month which will go above and beyond the current free experience — so a premium offer — without, per the post on his Telegram channel, any negative changes to existing features for (non-paying) users.
Indeed, the claim is that users who don’t pay for Telegram will not only not see any degrading of their experience but stand to benefit by being able to (freely) tap into certain premium extras — such as the ability to view “extra large” documents, media and stickers sent by Premium users; or add premium reactions if they’ve already been pinned to a message.
Durov says the move is intended to respond to user demand for additional storage/bandwidth — without such super users destroying Telegram’s ability to sustain a free service for everyone else.
“After giving it some thought, we realized that the only way to let our most demanding fans get more while keeping our existing features free is to make those raised limits a paid option,” he writes.
Exact details of what Premium users will get — and how much it will cost — are not detailed in Durov’s post. But, in recent days, press reports of incoming premium features and pricing have emerged, via the beta app, which suggest it could include stuff like increased file upload size, faster download speeds, voice-to-text conversion, premium stickers, advanced chat management features and more (no ads!).
A price of $4.99 per month has also been reported based on analysis of the beta app. But it remains to be seen what the official pricing will be in different regions.
In his post, Durov sums up Telegram Premium as “a subscription plan that allows anyone to acquire additional features, speed and resources”. He’s also spinning it as a bit of a patronage layer — pitching Telegram super fans who want to support the platform by making a financial contribution. Those that do will get the perk of joining a Premium “club” that will get new features first, he adds.
It’s not clear whether the Premium play is intended by Telegram to just cover costs for extra resource or to generate extra revenue. But given Durov’s framing of “support” it may be that he’s hoping to convert a meaningful portion of Telegram super fans into sustained financial backers. (Albeit, that will ofc depend on uptake of the Premium product.)
The startup’s plan for monetizing its 500 million+ monthly active users still isn’t crystal clear — some nine years into Telegram’s messaging joy ride. (And many months after an earlier attempted foray into crypto foundered.)
In recent times, Telegram has resorted to taking in external funding to pay its server bills — including more than $1BN in debt financing last year.
On monetization, Durov has talked about wanting a non-intrusive, privacy-friendly way to sustain usage over the long term. Although the platform has been experimenting with ads in public one-to-many channels. Still, Telegram’s principled founder still seems wary of relying on an ad-funded model, writing today: “I believe that Telegram should be funded primarily by its users, not advertisers.”