X is making a major change to the way it shows news content on its service.
The social platform’s owner Elon Musk confirmed on Tuesday that X will remove the headline and additional text that appear within news links. As a result, users will only be able to see the lead image from articles when browsing their feeds. Musk said the update “will greatly improve” the site’s aesthetic.
Without any context for the pictures, users may be forced to add their own text or captions to posts containing links to news articles.
Last week, X was accused of slowing down news links for several major news outlets and social media rivals that Musk had pilloried, including The New York Times. The entrepreneur previously compared the newspaper’s feed to diarrhea, and revoked its verification.
News organisations are among the most vociferous critics of Musk’s turnaround plan for X, which largely relies on a pivot to subscriptions. The New York Times has refused to pay for X’s blue-tick verification, while US public broadcaster NPR has quit the service altogether.
This is coming from me directly. Will greatly improve the esthetics.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 22, 2023
Part of that push for subscription revenue is tied to longer tweets. As Fortune notes, inside X, the hope is that reducing reliance on news headlines will also spur users to write more engaging posts.
The platform’s premium offering, which costs £9.60 per month, allows customers to compose posts containing as many as 25,000 characters. X has also introduced the ability to split up these lengthy treatises with multiple images, much in the same way as blog posts.
Whether or not Musk can turn X into a beefier publishing tool for influential writers, in the vein of Substack, remains to be seen. Currently, news links appear as cards on the platform, which include the title of the story, a brief description, and a thumbnail image.
The format has been around for years, and allows publishers to provide more info without sacrificing their character limits on tweets.
Still, for a social media site that specialises in the quick dissemination of breaking news, alienating the mainstream press doesn’t seem like a sound business plan. Especially when there are plenty of rivals waiting in the wings.