Elon Musk has spent a lot of money on Twitter. That means he needs it to make money - and fast.

Five quick thoughts about what Musk’s Twitter means for journalism

Five fairly practical thoughts about what the coming weeks could bring for a Musk-owned Twitter

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

1. Don’t expect the layoffs to come immediately

It seems pretty certain that Musk will want to reduce overheads, and push Twitter towards profitability as soon as possible, so he can start managing the massive debts he’s incurred. So, yes, people will go.

But the skill is in cutting people who aren’t critical to the functioning of the site. That takes time. He apparently has Tesla engineers in the building, and my bet is they are figuring out who is critical and who isn’t.

Once that’s done, the layoffs will start.

2. If you use Revue, Moments — or even Spaces — plan an exit strategy

One place that he could make savings pretty quickly without deeply impacting the core product is some of Twitter’s more recent additions or acquisitions. Much as it pains me to say so, given how much traffic they can generate for news sites, the Moments/curation team could be an easy cut. I know people in that team, and it does not make me happy. Revue, the newsletter platform Twitter acquired, has also stagnated and, unless it's revenue making, I imagine it could also be a good place to cut.

Spaces? I don’t know. It depends on whether Musk sees that as a valuable part of what Twitter does. But, right now, I wouldn’t bet on anything that isn’t part of Twitter’s core functionality, and doesn’t have a clear path to revenue.

3. The banned won’t be straight back

This was a fairly safe assumption when Musk tweeted out his letter to advertisers, but then he confirmed it himself:

Of course, the nature and composition of that board will be fascinating to watch…

4. Twitter will change less in the short term, and more in the long term

Despite the worst elements of Twitter’s user-base already feeling emboldened, I imagine for most of us, the experience won’t change much in the short term. Expect a slash and burn of peripherals services, but changes to the core service to be fairly conservative.

Where I would expect changes is where he can generate more cash in the short term: I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Twitter Blue made more widely available pretty quickly, possibly even with some functionality changes to make it more attractive.

Could he even make verification a perk of the service? 🤔

5. You need to know how exposed you are to Twitter

Now is a good time to dive into your analytics and figure out how much of your traffic is coming from Twitter. How much impact would losing a proportion of that traffic have on you? Figure out some mitigation strategies now. Twitter’s going to be unstable for a while, and this could be an existential threat to the platform. At the very least, try to convert Twitter-first readers to newsletters or other more direct audience engagement techniques as soon as you can.

And don’t forget you and your journalist’s contacts — how dependent are they on Twitter to maintain those contacts? Can they get them into messaging apps, or even just get email addresses instead?

This is just good discipline for any platform you use but don’t own — but if you’ve neglected it, it’s time to act.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.