News Headlines Are Disappearing on X

It's part of an effort to keep users scrolling, rather than clicking away
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2023 12:23 PM CDT
News Headlines Are Disappearing on X
Workers install lighting on an "X" sign atop the company headquarters, formerly known as Twitter, in downtown San Francisco, Friday, July 28, 2023.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

News outlets have another reason to dislike X. Headlines on news stories shared on the platform formerly known as Twitter are disappearing as part of owner Elon Musk's push to keep users from visiting external sites. Previously, when a link to a news article was shared, the lead image was automatically generated along with the headline. Now, only the photo and web domain appear. A review by the Washington Post found the change "also appeared to affect shared links to non-news websites," though not paid advertisements. In highlighting an example post, Chris Harihar, a partner at PR agency Crenshaw Communications, noted "a normal person ... would not even know [someone had] shared an article."

Months ago, Musk said he directed the move that would "greatly improve the esthetics." On Tuesday, however, he wrote that "our algorithm tries to optimize time spent on X, so links don't get as much attention, because there is less time spent if people click away." He also replied "yeah" to a post that claimed in part that "the new mainstream media will be X." Cardiff University journalism professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen says the change is "part of a larger trend toward making Twitter/X more difficult for news organizations to use," per the Post. "Users will no longer have the necessary context to understand the content of links—and therefore little reason to click on them." But she says it could also hurt X "by reducing the amount of relevant and engaging content on the platform."

Though advertisers appear to be unaffected, they are affected by another change flagged by the Wall Street Journal: X's increasing use of "Community Notes." The feature—which allows users to provide additional context to paid and unpaid posts, challenging the narrative—has advertisers cautious about spending on X ads. As the Journal notes, Uber deleted an ad claiming its drivers "earn like a boss" after a note, approved by a group of volunteer users, stated the average Uber driver earns less than $12 per hour. Musk previously claimed the site lost $40 million in revenue following notes targeting two advertisers. "Political ads will likely face even greater scrutiny as the 2024 election cycle heats up," per the Journal. (The platform has disabled another feature used to report election misinformation.)

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