Oct 3, 2023 - Technology

Musk says X discourages links in posts

Photo illustration of Elon Musk

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Christian Marquardt - Pool/Getty Images

Elon Musk on Tuesday told users of X, formerly Twitter, that the "best thing to do" in order to get engagement on X is to post long-form content, as "links don't get as much attention."

Why it matters: Big brands and news companies have long relied on posting links to social media sites in order to build traffic to their own websites, where they can monetize user attention themselves.

  • Twitter was a link-sharing hub from the beginning, but Musk suggested posting links cuts down on the time users spend on his own site.

Details: Musk's comments came in response to a user tweet featuring a chart published Tuesday by Axios, showing a rapid decline in traffic referrals to top news sites globally from X and Meta over the past year and beyond.

  • "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 wrote.
  • "Best thing is to post content in long form on this platform."
  • A spokesperson for X didn't clarify further when asked about Musk's comments.

Between the lines: Musk has pushed to expand the amount of content users can post on X, but most of those perks are given to users who pay for an X Premium subscription, which includes support for longer posts and longer video uploads.

  • X users who do not pay for a subscription are more limited in the types of long-form content they can create.

Be smart: Removing links is part of a broader set of changes Musk is implementing that target the news business.

  • In August, Musk said he would hide headlines from links to "improve aesthetics," though the change was never implemented.
  • The same month, The Washington Post reported that X was throttling access to some news websites, including The New York Times and Reuters.

Yes, but: X is not the only platform to move in this direction.

  • TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, the three most popular social media and entertainment apps among young users, are much less friendly to links than Facebook is and X has been.

The big picture: The shift to prioritize longer content is ironic, given that, before Musk bought Twitter and renamed it X, Twitter's brand was synonymous with short posts.

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