X, formerly known as Twitter, is set to undergo a significant transformation in the way news articles are presented on the platform. The company plans to remove headlines and other accompanying text from tweets containing news links. Instead, only the lead image of the article will be displayed, as per information obtained by Fortune.
In a recent post on X, Elon Musk encouraged journalists to publish directly on the platform, suggesting it would offer them “more freedom to write and a higher income.” He wrote, “If you're a journalist who wants more freedom to write and a higher income, then publish directly on this platform.”
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
Implications for Users and Publishers
This modification implies that when users or publishers share a link on X, they would need to manually input their own text alongside the shared links. Without this additional input, the tweet will only showcase an image with an overlay of the URL. While users can still access the full article by clicking on the image, this change could have profound effects on publishers who depend on social media for website traffic and for advertisers as well.
Motivation Behind the Decision
A source familiar with the matter revealed that the driving force behind this change is Elon Musk, the owner of X. The primary goal is to decrease the height of tweets, allowing more posts to be visible within a user's on-screen timeline. Musk also believes that this alteration will help combat the prevalence of clickbait. The source mentioned, “It's something Elon wants. They were running it by advertisers, who didn't like it, but it's happening.” The source further added that Musk feels articles take up too much space on the timeline.
A Push for Direct Publishing
The proposed changes to article sharing are currently undergoing internal testing. However, the exact public rollout date remains uncertain. A hint of this impending change was X's recent decision to overlay URL links on images for mobile users, while simultaneously removing the brief description visible on the web version. The article headline, however, still appears on mobile.
Since acquiring Twitter for $44 billion the previous year, Musk has had a tumultuous relationship with the media sector. He has previously labeled certain media outlets as “state-controlled,” leading to some, like NPR, to depart from the platform. Additionally, his decision to eliminate content moderation rules and reinstate previously banned users, including former President Donald Trump, has caused many prominent advertisers to abandon the service.