Elon Musk sitting upon a pile of burning newspapers.
Some people just like to watch the news media burn.

Beating the X (Twitter) headline ban

There is a way around X's removal of headlines from links shared on the platform once known as Twitter. But it comes at a price.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

In the latest move to drive the news industry off his platform, Elon Musk has implemented one of his long-threatened changes to X: removing headlines from links shared there.

For years now, the bird site has supported a Metadata standard called "Twitter Cards" which allowed you to define how your articles would look when shared to the platform. He's essential junked that, and now you just get a photo and a very small URL tag on the post. Here's an example:

A post on X showing how headlines have been removed from link share posts, and replaced by a small URL tag in the bottom left of the image.

As you can see, the lead image from the post has been shared, but not the headline. There's a very small URL tag in the bottom left, and it's clashing with the text I've put on the image. This is a common problem. Here's a post from The Telegraph:

A shoe of a Telegraph article to X, showing a clash of the Telegraph logo and an URL tag

Look at the clash between the URL tag and the logo. No fun for the Telegraph's social team to resolve.

Hacking your way around the X headline ban

There is, of course, one way of getting the headline back: you put it in the lead image. This is dependent on your CMS supporting a specific image choice for use on social media. Thankfully, Ghost does, and so I can set this as the specific share image for X:

An AI generated image of Elon Mush sitting on burning newspapers, with a headline "How to beat Elon's bonfire of the links".

I knocked this up in Pixelmator Pro, but Canva, Adobe Express or even Pablo would do fine.

It gives you one more chance to sell the click-through, but at a cost: accessibility. There's no way to attach alt text to that image, so people using screen readers are completely dependent on the text in the X post (formerly known as Tweets). This has not been thought through.

RIP Twitter Analytics

One thing that has been thought through, though: there's no direct way on Twitter itself to see how much this has impacted click through rates right now.

Here's the current look of Twitter analytics for my account:

The analytics for Adam Tinworth's Twitter account - most of the data is missing.

Yup. a mess, with most of the information gone. Anyone familiar with Melon Husk's “improvements” to the platform so far is probably suffering chills at that notice at the top, saying they're working on those “improvements” for analytics.

The detail view survives, for now:

Detail on how much engagement each of my Tweets get.

But for how long?

Much of the infrastructure we've come to rely on when using Twitter/X is gone. So yes, you can hack your way around the new restrictions. But what every publisher should be asking themselves is, simply, is it worth it any more?

If you don't have an X exit planned already, it's time to do so. You might well need it.

X (Twitter)Social Media

Adam Tinworth Twitter

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.