Publishers face risks with Twitter upheaval but are in wait-and-see mode

By Peter Bale

INMA

New Zealand and the U.K.

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It’s often said that Twitter is the home of journalists when their audience is on Facebook or TikTok. But there’s no doubt publishers have invested in Twitter to promote their titles, the social profile of their journalists, and as a source of contacts and information.

It really has become the home of breaking news, breaking the hold on speed and, in many cases, accuracy once held by the news agencies rooted in fast-moving financial and world news.

Parody accounts impersonating Elon Musk recently flooded Twitter, causing Musk to ban and suspend them.
Parody accounts impersonating Elon Musk recently flooded Twitter, causing Musk to ban and suspend them.

However, with Twitter in some chaos after the Elon Musk takeover, it’s unclear whether that commitment from publishers will continue or exactly what the risks will be if Musk goes ahead with charging for verification or if more advertisers withdraw from the platform. 

It’s also not absolutely clear what the risks are of greater misinformation and disinformation given big job cuts, including the curation team that tried to counter misinformation by promoting genuine sources.

One editor at a leading American publisher told me they were watching the situation closely and would determine their ongoing commitment based mostly on return on investment. While saying they were not necessarily worried about losing the existing verification check mark, they were worried about bad actors impersonating their staff or brands.

“I am concerned about accounts pretending to be us or others,” said the editor, who did not wish to be named. “Without verification, that becomes easier to do.”

Musk has floated a US$8 fee for the blue check mark of verification.
Musk has floated a US$8 fee for the blue check mark of verification.

If, as Musk has floated, verification could be bought, it was likely at least this publisher might not pay for it: “Probably not. If anyone can pay and get a checkmark, there is no value.”

My own nightmare scenario — especially as a former Reuters financial reporter — is bad actors impersonating market-moving reporters like those who cover the Federal Reserve, or the key reporters on corporate beats with the power to influence financial markets. You can, of course, imagine any other scenario in politics, diplomacy, or military areas.

I found it notable that the small investigative news site CodaStory.com said it would suspend any advertising on Twitter, and co-founder Ilan Greenberg said in a tweet: “We're realistic about our impacts on Twitter. But concerns over a lack of moderating extreme content necessitates our withdrawal.”

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About Peter Bale

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