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Oct 5, 2023Liked by Nate Silver

I hope the New York Times does quit Twitter. New York Times coverage has gotten a lot saner in the last year, and I think having to rely more on their base readers, rather than just cash in on viral social media clicks for individual pieces, has helped. The drive to go viral on Twitter, Facebook etc. really worsened the quality of the news media for a long time across the board

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The thing about Twitter is it is still, for now, free to use. If the alternative is greedy Substackers gouging their gullible readers, then give me Twitter all day long. You can get a digital subscription to a major newspaper, with all the news and opinion and extras that go with it, for only slightly more than the cost of one Substack. And the Substacker isn't under any actual obligation to produce content! We could all sign up for subscriptions to the Silver Bulletin and then Nate decides to never post again.

The walled gardens of social media were already a retrograde step from the freedom and independence of the early web. For those gardens' walls to be replaced by paywalls would be disastrous. Musk's tenure at Twitter has been a mixture of disappointing cowardice and self-inflicted blunders. But as long as Twitter remains free and open, it will still be preferable to the grasping commercialism of Substack.

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Oct 5, 2023·edited Oct 5, 2023

Twitter used to be magical. I remember being able to friend producers of the Simpsons, sports journalists, acclaimed writers, academic minds, and you would be able to have a conversation with them that they responded to on earnest like you were contemporaries.

I have had conversations with Sam Simon of the Simpsons and Brad Neely of China, IL where I could ask confirm my thoughts and ask questions. I ended up being constantly involved with sports writer George Malik about the Wings and it was great.

But eventually everyone interesting would just post a bit of bait to an article and immediately after a bunch of morons would start fighting like every comment section. No one interacted anymore. The platform was dead when the people with interesting things to say turned it into a funnel like Nate says here. I would still visit, like to get the NFL draft picks minutes before the broadcast, but hat ended as well.

When Elon bought it I knew that it was destined to become a hype machine for himself and his capitalist cronnies. But I am completely aghast that people who are tied to good journalism haven't bailed because the platform is now just yellow journalism on steroids. To associate is the equivalent of the Times buying a rack in-between the inquirer and sudoku puzzles in the checkout line.

Everyone should quit Twitter. I did the moment Elon bought it. You are only helping the world get worse by propping up X. Leave it and let it become Truth social so everyone can just ignore it. Make it so Google no longer puts it in every search page.

I wish I had the capital Elon had when he started. I have an idea to destroy all the social media ethically. But it will never happen because the world isn't designed to allow anyone but billionaires to control anything. That's what X stands for.

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One of the interesting things about this article is your priors Nate: you seem to believe Elon makes statements and arguments in good faith. I think he's more like Trump, where someone's had so much money and privilege in their life that nothing matters but the troll's grin.

A lot of what Elan does is with an eye towards satisfying his ego which is wrapped up in weird religious beliefs (make as many kids as possible), doing PR for his personal indiscretions, "freespeech" so he can tarnish people at will, and good old fashion power, money, and ego-satiation.

Although yah, I've heard he's doing poorly on the money-front lately. Cheers to The Times leaving Twitter!

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Oct 6, 2023·edited Oct 6, 2023

It's striking to compare Nate's experience versus Matthew Yglesias. Both occassionally subjected to random torrents of hate/misunderstanding on Twitter while being incredibly respected by many others. Both with an iconic web platform that they lost and left for Substack. Both with significant misgivings about the way Elon Musk is running X, while not really wanting to leave X or watch X die.

The most striking difference is Nate seems a little more bitter about the negativity on Twitter whereas Matt seems a little more blase. Is this just a difference in personality? Difference in public persona? Is it just that Nate's move to Substack is a few years behind Matt's trajectory and he will start to come out of the other side of it? Or has Nate actually lost more at the hands of the Twitter drama.

I guess what I am trying to say is that Nate we love and you support you. I hope you know that the people who get what you are saying and appreciate you for saying it aren't always the ones that jump in with the commentary.

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"For the Times, however, the share of traffic it gets from Twitter is almost certainly quite fractional." I was surprised that this claim wasn't accompanied by a source or data. I don't necessarily doubt that you're right but where would I even start to gain the same level of certainty you have on this? It's a critically important variable in the bet Elon's made here by knee-capping creators.

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One Substack subscriber is worth a hundred Twitter followers.

Substack > X > MSM > Facebook

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Musk in fact did the Times an unwitting favor - the algorithmic changes and his unpopularity within media have largely dissolved Twitter as the gathering place for writers and journalists. They still talk, but the throttling of links and the suppression of accounts without Twitter Blue has made the use of Twitter as the journo town square a lot more difficult. Which redounds to the benefit of the biggest publication in the world, the only space big enough to serve as the focal point of the industry.

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Serious question, should NYT or WAPO provide a new Twitter? They seem to have all the business capabilities (ads, subscriptions, editorial process, coverage of the broad scales of interests). I would think they could acquire the tech at a reasonable price (Post or others). They would be well positioned to pull in the broad scale of content providers. I always thought Twitters biggest benefit/competitive advantage was the aggregation of content across all those different interests (news, politics, entertainment, sport, etc.). It's what keeps me there rather than going to an alternative.

A personally curated Newspaper for the 21st century.

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TwiX may quit you by going bankrupt. Elon seems intent on transforming TwiX from the Yellow Pages into the back pages of your local, free, weekly alt paper that has dozens of advertisements for “massages.”

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Ok so I'm not the only one who was getting spammed with Cheech and Chong gummy ads. I've since deleted the platform; I find that it's borderline useless between the ad spam and funky algorithm tweaking that seemed to change daily. I also don't wish to reward a Boer by making his horrible investment a little less bad. Hopefully you and the Times will join me some day.

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If I see a NYT article on Marginal Revolution, or cited in a blogpost, it is a must-read. If I see a NYT article re-tweeted on Twitter, it is likely an op-ed, and worse than the next tweet. The 2015-2019 years were actually worse for the NYT in this regard. 2020 "this needs context" warnings were a steep price to pay, both in content and in sheer amount of screen volume, but it made the NYT op-eds read much more like a Twitter feed.

A friend joked that Twitter is to journalism what the downtown bar is to lawyers. NYT has the odd problem of both workers and avid readers wanting to be in the bar, and then getting pilloried when their reporters tweet racist content, criticize the paper, etc.

It's surprising to me that NYT, which I assume already has some strict policies on Twitter usage, does not simply pull its reporters off the app. NYT could continue to upload links for traffic, albeit with less emphasis on images, which seems like it would result in less clickbait. Reporters, however, are probably as good at presenting themselves on Twitter as the median Twitter user, and thus dilute the power of the brand substantially.

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Just curious - are Google searches for "Twitter" a good approximation of its popularity?

Theoretically, if everybody in the world had a Twitter account, Google searches for the word would head towards zero, wouldn't it?

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The thing I liked about twitter was tweetdeck. That's gone now. I'm not giving him money. So I don't user twitter/x/whatever anymore.

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Or you could just quit all social media forever:

https://sassone.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/thoughts-on-social-media/

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Agreed that the tweet linked in footnote 1 is among the best (of yours or anyone else's), classic sentiment.

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