X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter, is planning a major change in how news articles appear on the service, stripping out the headline and other text so that tweets with links display only an article’s lead image, according to material viewed by Fortune.
Roughly four hours after the publication of this article, Elon Musk confirmed these plans, posting that “this is coming from me directly,” and it “will greatly improve the esthetics.”
The change means that anyone sharing a link on X – from individual users to publishers – would need to manually add their own text alongside the links they share on the service; otherwise the tweet will display only an image with no context other than an overlay of the URL. While clicking on the image will still lead to the full article on the publisher’s website, the change could have major implications for publisher who rely on social media to drive traffic to their sites as well as for advertisers, Fortune reported.
According to a source with knowledge of the matter, the change is indeed being pushed directly by X owner Elon Musk. The primary objective appears to be to reduce the height of tweets, thus allowing more posts to fit within the portion of the timeline that appears on the screen. Musk also believes the change will help curb clickbait, the source said.
TechCrunch reported that currently, a Twitter card for a news article or a blog post shows the headline and summary text (just on the web) along with the header image of the preview card of a post. However, if the proposed change comes through, X will only show the image with a link in a post. That means if a publication or a blog doesn’t post any accompanying text with the link, users will only see the link and the image for that article.
According to TechCrunch, Musk also recently said that journalists vying for more freedom and higher income should directly publish on X. Elon Musk tweeted: “If you’re a journalist who wants more freedom to write and a higher income, then publish directly on this platform!”
The Guardian reported the move may be an attempt to drive people to sign up for X’s premium service. With the shortened links, users could be inclined to include more text along with their posts. The premium service allows a single post of up to 25,000 characters.
It is not immediately clear how it will impact advertisers on the platform, which Musk claimed in July had 540 million monthly users.
With the changes, Musk is pitching X as a more relevant platform for content creators. Premium subscribers can now post longer videos, their posts are shown higher up and they also receive a cut of ad sales.
According to The Guardian, Musk has made a number of abrupt changes to Twitter since he took over as owner in October 2022, many of which have negatively impacted the news media that make up a large portion of its user base. The billionaire has suspended journalists from the platform, removed verification from many media figures, and attempted to launch his own journalistic endeavors with a project called the Twitter Files, in which he had reporters publish “investigations” directly on the platform.
It seems to me that Elon Musk doesn’t really want to support Twitter very much at all. He appears to be doing his best to push people away from using Twitter by making bad decisions that will likely cause harm to many marginalized users.