Elon Musk’s determination to reshape the landscape of his social media platform, formerly known as Twitter and now referred to as X, is continuing at full throttle. This time, the billionaire owner has brought a significant change in the way news articles appear on the platform. This involves stripping shared links of their headlines and text, displaying only the lead image along with an overlay of the URL. In case journalists want to add a headline, they will have to manually add it as a text along with the link shared.
Elon Musk confirmed the development in a post on X – the former Twitter CEO added that it will “greatly improve the aesthetics.” This marks the latest change that is set to come to X – the erstwhile Twitter and Musk’s “everything app” – ever since it was bought by Musk last year. This also comes soon after Musk tweeted that journalists who want “more freedom to write and a higher income” should publish directly on X.
If you’re a journalist who wants more freedom to write and a higher income, then publish directly on this platform!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 21, 2023
This is coming from me directly. Will greatly improve the esthetics.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 22, 2023
X’s proposed new format for shared news articles diverges from the current presentation style. Instead of displaying headlines and text, the platform would showcase just the lead image, with users having to manually add their own text alongside the link to provide context. This change looks to optimize the use of screen space by making posts more compact, enabling more content to fit within the visible portion of users’ timelines. Allowing users to see more content in their timelines without scrolling extensively could also lead to increased engagement as users can consume more information in a shorter time.
In simple terms, the next time you want to check out an article by The Tech Portal on X, you’ll see only the lead image and the URL to the article, with no context to it. This could be a little misleading, though. Who knows, perhaps it might also entice users to subscribe to X Premium – the erstwhile Twitter Blue, which allows a single post of up to 25,000 characters – to write some text alongside their posts to provide the necessary context.
While this change is aligned with Musk’s drive for user engagement (something that was threatened by the rapid rise of Threads last month) it has sparked concerns among news publishers. As mentioned earlier, articles shared on X appear as “cards” with an image, source address, and abridged headline.
This packaging is designed to entice clicks and readership, and the removal of headlines may potentially hamper publishers’ ability to draw an audience, thereby impacting their revenue models and advertising strategies. After all, publishers heavily rely on compelling headlines to entice clicks and drive traffic to their websites. Removing headlines might lead to reduced click-through rates as users may not have enough context to decide whether to click on the link. And if the new format leads to fewer clicks, publishers’ revenue could be negatively affected.
It remains to be seen whether this can curtail clickbait practices – the existing format often incentivizes publishers to create clickbait headlines that capitalize on the limited space available. By requiring users to add context through their own text alongside the URL, Musk aims to promote more thoughtful and informative posts.