If you’re reading this, you’re probably already familiar with yesterday’s news: Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and the world’s richest man, putting in an offer to buy Twitter for roughly $43 billion.
It was the culmination of a weeks-long drama that began with the revelation that Musk had bought a 9.2% stake in the company, and continued with his claim that he’d be joining its board (only to back down a few days later).
As one would expect, the reactions were extreme, and spanned the whole spectrum—from support to outrage to, most frequently, confusion.
It’s important to remember here that anything can happen. This is true of all developing news stories, and it’s especially true of developing news stories involving Elon Musk. But, for publishers, there are important lessons to be drawn from all this, no matter what course things end up taking.
As our CEO and co-founder Nadav Shoval told the Drum, “While the world’s richest people buying media companies is nothing new, Musk’s interest in Twitter as opposed to a traditional publisher reflects a world where social media still serves as the most powerful intermediary between audiences and [… content].”
It’s no secret that, over the last ten years, Twitter has become an integral part of most publishers’ business plans. At first, the strategy was simple: Twitter, like all social platforms, would serve as a kind of turbocharged newsstand, drawing in readers at unprecedented scale.
The reality, we now know, is markedly different. What became a reliance on social platforms to reach audiences has led to many complications, from changes in algorithms to data privacy moves.
That’s the heart of this problem: instability. Publishers can do everything the big social platforms ask of them, but if the platforms suddenly change the rules—unfortunately not uncommon—their best efforts could go to waste.
All media businesses depend on stability to grow. A billionaire buying one of the most important news platforms on earth and promising to change the rules is just another chapter in the story of how social media platforms make that path to growth more precarious.
That’s why, every day, publishers are discovering ways to build stronger, more direct relationships with their readers. This is how publishers will build more independent, thriving platforms—an online home for their readers.