The platform was initially funded by Pavel Durov, Telegram's founder, but it has since raised more than $1 billion thanks to investments from groups such as Mubadala, Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners, and others. As Telegram adds more and more users, it is now looking for ways to monetize the platform. While Durov refuses to show ads within the chats, the company started testing "Sponsored Messages" in 2020.
Sponsored Messages are a part of Telegram's recently launched ads platform. Sponsored Messages, the company says, are shown on public channels with more than 1000 subscribers. These promotional messages have a 160-character limit and are related to the topic of the channel they’re shown in.
Now, according to a new feature found in the latest Telegram app for iOS, it seems that the company is (essentially) looking at other ways to generate money. Similar to Discord, Telegram could soon ask users to pay a premium to unlock additional features. The feature has been spotted in the latest iOS beta version (8.7.2) of Telegram and is aptly called "Telegram Premium."
It is currently unknown how much the feature would cost, but the reports suggest that it could be added to the stable version soon. Thanks to a video that surfaced on the Telegram Beta group (screenshots attached above), some of the features of the Telegram Premium subscription have already leaked. One of the features that the leaked video reveals is that Telegram Premium users will be able to send and receive exclusive emoji reactions and stickers.
The exclusive reactions are similar to the big emoji reactions that Telegram introduced recently. They include a big heart emoji, a new clown emoji, a new "surprised" reaction, and more. Weirdly, it appears that even the recipient of the message will need Telegram Premium to see exclusive emojis, reactions, and stickers. If a non-subscriber receives a Telegram Premium emoji or sticker, they'll be prompted to subscribe to the feature.
One Redditor was also able to access Telegram Premium on the beta version of the macOS app. They claim that in addition to the exclusive emojis, Telegram Premium would also come with a special avatar creator (shown above). The new avatar creator would allow Premium users to combine simple or patterned gradients with their favorite emoji or sticker. However, nothing is confirmed as of now.
While we're still unsure whether Telegram would launch a Premium subscription or not, the leaked feature does raise an important question: will the move towards a freemium model generate revenue for Telegram? Or will it be just another failed attempt?
History has shown us that the addition of a Premium (paid) feature to a chat app (if implemented properly) can result in revenue generation for a company. Discord has a similar feature, called Nitro, wherein it charges its user on a periodic basis (monthly or yearly) for access to certain features, such as HD screen share, high-quality uploads, and more. Some reports claim that Discord had more than 1 million paid users in 2020 and had generated a revenue of $130 million alone that year. Even though Nitro isn’t something users need to use the service, it’s been quite popular among Discord users and continues to be profitable for the company.
Another route Telegram could take is to turn the app into a "super app," similar to WeChat. For those unaware, WeChat offers a lot more than just a messaging platform. WeChat users can pay, play games, shop, and do a lot more right through the app. This approach has been working well for the company and the app generated a whopping revenue of nearly $52.5B last year. Telegram has already forayed into a number of areas, such as live streaming, cryptocurrency, and others, that could make money for the company.
We all know it's hard to convince users to pay for a feature, especially when hundreds (if not thousands) of similar apps are already available out there. However, with more than 500 million people using Telegram actively, Durov only needs a small amount of paying customers to break even. But will he be able to achieve it? Will you subscribe to Telegram Premium in case the company decides to launch it? What would be the price you will be willing to pay for the feature? Let us know in the comments section below!