Digiday+ Research: Publishers’ use of X falls off
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It’s been a roller coaster of a year for Twitter — ahem, X — in a lot of ways. And the platform’s relationship with publishers is no exception.
Digiday+ Research surveyed about 200 publisher professionals in 2021, 2022 and 2023 about their use of X, and found a big drop-off among publishers this year.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to the social media platform this year. The platform’s decline in the eyes of publishers started at the beginning of the year. In the spring (before the big name change), many publishers stopped paying to promote posts on Twitter amid changes to the platform’s verification practices, and some saw the platform as becoming “toxic and unstable,” as Melissa Chowning, founder and CEO of audience development and marketing firm Twenty-First Digital, put it.
Then, over the summer, Automattic reported that referral traffic from X fell on average by 24% from the first half of 2022 to the first half of 2023, all while The Washington Post found that X was slowing the page load speed of links to news organizations like The New York Times and Reuters. Now, X has removed headlines from posts containing links — “a bozo move,” as one publishing executive said in an interview with Digiday.
These issues publishers have encountered with X showed in our research. Digiday’s surveys found that there was a significant drop in the percentage of publishers who said they’re using X between last year and this year. Eighty-nine percent of publisher pros said last year that their titles posted content to X (well, Twitter at the time) in the past month. This year, fewer than three-quarters of publisher pros (73%) said the same.
Publishers’ drop in usage of X this year was reflected in how often publisher pros said they’re posting on the platform. This year, Digiday found that publishers were almost evenly split on posting on X every day or at least once a week: Exactly half of publisher pros (50%) said this year that they post content on X every day, while 42% said this year they post at least once a week. This is a big difference from last year, when three-quarters of publisher pros (75%) said they posted content on X every day and 23% said they posted at least once a week.
In fact, Digiday’s surveys found that the percentage of publishers who post on X every day has been trending downward since 2021, while those who post at least once a week has been trending up. Fifty percent of publisher pros said this year that they post on X every day, down from 75% last year and 84% the year before. At the same time, 42% said this year that they post at least once a week, up from 23% last year and 15% the year before.
One thing that hasn’t changed since last year is that not many publishers are investing in advertising on X, although even that percentage has seen a slight drop from last year to this year. Just 21% of publisher pros told Digiday this year that their titles purchased advertising on X in the past month, compared with 26% last year.
This isn’t necessarily a surprising statistic, considering the drop-off in usage of the platform revealed in Digiday’s surveys. After all, it wouldn’t make much sense for publishers to invest in advertising on X when they’re actively cutting down on their presence on the platform. But this does serve as further evidence that publishers are seeing much less potential in X than they have in years past.
To that point, Digiday’s surveys also found that publishers consider X to be a lot less brand-appropriate than they did last year. Slightly more than three-quarters of publisher pros (79%) said this year that X is at least somewhat appropriate for their brands, a significant drop from the 92% who said so both last year and the year before.
There was a particularly significant drop-off in the percentage of publishers who said X is extremely brand-appropriate this year. Last year, one-quarter of publisher pros (25%) told Digiday that X was extremely appropriate for their brands. This year, just 13% of publisher pros said the same.
At the same time, the percentage of publishers who said X is not very appropriate for their brands saw a big jump this year. Twenty-one percent of publisher pros said X is not very brand-appropriate this year, up from just 7% last year and 5% the year before.
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