It is safe to assume, guided by the Occam’s razor principle, that one of the world’s wealthiest people didn’t buy Twitter for no reason at all; we should work under the assumption that he has not, in fact, lost his mind and that there is a legitimate business case for buying one of the world’s most successful social networks.
In the world of newsmaking and public relations, Twitter is among the most valuable institutions. Perhaps not $44 billion valuable at the moment but the potential exists. It has become our default international news wire, and is the place where news breaks first. Although we have a love-hate relationship with Twitter, in an attention economy, it’s not difficult to imagine how such an institution, a central communications hub for the world’s media capital, should eventually become, perhaps in a distant future under more disciplined leadership, a blue chip tech company that could actually be a force for good.
But that’s not what Twitter is today under new management. It seems like they’ve borrowed the old internal Facebook maxim, “Move fast and break things.”
Such a maxim can not only be foolish in any business setting but sinister when applied to mass media. We know what the worst case scenarios of media mismanagement are, and they include horrifying human rights abuses up to and including genocide.I’ve been suggesting as much to clients since the algorithm overhauls from 2015 to 2017, but perhaps it’s time to moderate advertising spending on social media and attempt to rekindle our love affair with legacy media: television, radio and the written word. As vexing as their journalists may be to left and right wings, newspapers like the New York Post and New York Times, unlike their counterparts in big tech, abide by internal regulations to avoid inciting violence.
Having fun yet?
The chaotic nonsense being thrown out daily by Twitter’s new boss looks ridiculous and may contribute to a further deterioration of public conversations. Just what is Elon doing?, is a common question. Again, the answer we should assume is not nothing.
A Shock Doctrine is being rolled out at Twitter and, boss’ antics aside, what is presumably part of the calculation is that individual subscribed users and not corporate advertising is expected to lead future revenue growth. Perhaps the goal is to quickly push demanding advertisers out the door, along with their (BORING!) concerns about civility and tolerance; perhaps unleashing our innermost trolls like during those late aughts ‘glory’ years, will enable the network to better mine our emotions, and data.
It’s been said by many critics of big tech but if a web product is free or heavily subsidized, and you can’t figure out its source of revenue, then chances are it is actually you, the user, that is the core product.A question to consider for the new year: How much data do you want to input into your social networks and what return do you expect on your investment?
A legacy media turnaround in 2023?
I’ve never stopped being optimistic about the future of so-called “legacy” media, a term that seems to have been popularized by the tech community to imply irrelevance, obsolescence.
These are legitimate criticisms when applied to major international media companies who, for the most part, spent a decade or two passively observing by the sidelines as big tech ate slowly bled the industry’s ad revenue dry.
Journalism will never go out of style. How it can adapt to modernity is the challenge for mainstream media companies and to get there, a newspaper’s web presence must become more robust and easier to engage with, like Twitter or Facebook — but without exclusively relying on the social networks for engagement.
I hesitate to offer predictions in such an unstable environment but I strongly suspect this could be the year that advertising dollars begin to flow away from tech and back toward legacy media. The liabilities of a zero-regulation environment are becoming too risky for many corporate brands who, especially in uncertain times, will have to rely on forms of advertising that they know can be effective.
There’s nothing productive about the content chaos at Twitter, or the premature Web3 rabbit-holing over at Facebook, which has yet to explain what exactly their metaverse will do for anyone. Why wouldn’t advertisers, seeing rising digital expenses and dwindling engagement, scale back their online spends to focus on a more balanced approach involving a renewed look at more stable legacy media?
We can only hope that Elon’s antics will soon end, and that Twitter can find its purpose under an industry self-regulatory model that enhances public conversations instead of deteriorating them. And if that’s the goal here, public conversations, there is nothing like the experience and collective wisdom of a newspaper or radio station that has been managing these conversations for decades.
Dan Delmar is Managing Partner, Communications at TNKR Media.