Space Karen’s War on Journalism

Where there’s smoke, there’s Space Karen

Over the weekend, I was having an online discussion wondering why Journalists were not getting off of Twitter. My take is essentially that they have developed tools and workflows that are not available elsewhere. I also think that they are suffering from the sunk cost fallacy that they’ve put too much time and effort into developing their brand/community that they cannot see their way clear to starting up again elsewhere.

Then this morning I got this message in the ol’ inbox from John Stoehr at The Editorial Board SubStack (emphasis mine):

Hi and welcome to the Monday edition! I’m writing with news about the Editorial Board. Since January 1, there’s been a 70 percent drop in new subscriptions. Last year, I had more people coming in than going out. This year, it’s the reverse. The reason is Twitter. New supporters used to come from Twitter. Twitter’s new owner has ruined it. This trend is concerning, because this is how I make a living. This is how I raise my daughter.

I do not have actual statistics, but my own Twitter Report shows me the number of my followers who have closed their accounts. It has slowed down now, but it easily is in the thousands. My instinct is that so many people fled Twitter when the literal Nazis showed up that the Editorial Board subscription pleas are falling into the void; the Nazis don’t want to subscribe. People who would enjoy subscribing to his SubStack are no longer there. That is a Marketing Channel failure.

(Full disclosure: I am a paid subscriber to the Editorial Board and enjoy it very much. Please do click on the link above and subscribe if you are so inclined.)

Also in the inbox, this message from the alway excellent Aaron Rupar’s substack (Also a paid subscriber):

I wrote last Friday about Twitter preventing Substack authors from embedding tweets. The situation escalated later that day to Twitter throttling the reach of any tweets featuring a Substack link, as well as preposterously labeling Substack pages as “unsafe.”

Well, Twitter has deescalated the situation a bit since then, even if Elon and company are still creating annoyances for me in lots of little ways.

Twitter avatar for @atrupar

Aaron Rupar @atrupar
I used to enter URL of my Public Notice posts in Twitter search bar to see what accounts shared stories. Now when I do that, a bunch of random tweets with the word “newsletter” come up, but I can no longer track shares. Super annoying and another example of Elon’s pettiness.

Anyway, it’s at least good news that Twitter is no longer completely stifling Substack, even if the broader reality of the platform’s downward spiral is a huge bummer.

And that shows us a workflow failure. Rupar specializes in quick video captures with his own hot takes to frame the news. If he cannot easily embed Tweets with videos or trust that they will embed, his Substack posts are diminished if not destroyed.

[On his most recent edition of The Aaron Rupar Show podcast, he talks with his guest gaming out leaving Twitter; their conclusion is to stay because they have such big followings.]

But here’s the thing that everyone should see: Twitter is deliberately putting up barriers. Elon wants whatever is his version of Free Speech absolutism to be only within what is rapidly failing, authoritarian walled garden. He’s attacking Journalists now, which is very clearly part of his apparent fascistic agenda:

Elon Musk’s impulsive reactions to competitive products or opinions he dislikes are having an outsized impact on the media industry, which represents some of Twitter’s most hyper-engaged users.

Why it matters: Musk has forced news companies to choose between their commercial interests and their values. Until now, business needs have won out, but the industry is beginning to reach a breaking point.

Driving the news: Musk on Sunday added a new “government funded” label to a few select media outlets that receive some funding from the government, including NPR and BBC.

  • BBC is pushing back on the move, arguing that it is independent and funded by the British public through the license fee.
  • NPR’s business reporter Bobby Allyn reported that Musk plans to apply that label to “a larger number of institutions,” but it’s unclear exactly how he plans to use the new label.
  • As of Sunday evening, Twitter’s posted policies do not appear to have been updated to reflect Musk’s latest statements.


Between the lines: Musk has been known to take more targeted actions against specific newsrooms or journalists that he dislikes, often without a good explanation as to why those actions violate Twitter’s policies.

  • Musk last week disabled the ability for users to share links to newsletters authored in Substack, the email publishing platform.
  • The move appeared to be in response to Substack’s introduction of a new feature Wednesday called Substack Notes that allows writers to produce short posts resembling tweets for the platform.
  • Musk later tried to claim that Twitter never blocked Substack links. Over the weekend, Twitter reversed its decision, making Substack links available on Twitter, but search queries for Substack still show up blank.


Musk’s move clearly rattled Substack writers, including some of Musk’s favorite authors.

  • On Friday, Matt Taibbi, a veteran writer who Musk handpicked to feed a leak of thousands of Twitter documents, said he would use Substack Notes instead of Twitter because of Musk’s moves.
  • “Elon Musk supports freedom of speech (except for journalists, bloggers, critics, competitors, anti-fascist activists and his workers),” tweeted Substack author Max Berger.


Musk hasn’t been shy about his feelings towards the press, arguing in favor of “citizen journalism” as a counter to mainstream publications.

  • After firing all of its communications staff, the company last month set Twitter’s longstanding email account for handling press inquiries to respond automatically with the “poop” emoji.

When your marketing channel (and frankly this is also a distribution channel issue too) is dependent upon the whims of an unstable billionaire, then your business model is going to fail.

Independent journalists need to have paying readers to remain viable. That they are so dependent on Twitter is a strategic business mistake.

John Stoehr is no dummy: he says what should be obvious by now (emphasis mine):

I do, however, have 10,000 email addresses on my free list. If a fraction of that number were subscribers, I wouldn’t have to write these editor’s notes for a year. If you’re one of the 1,300 paying subscribers, thank you! Can you send this edition to a friend? If you’ve been enjoying the Editorial Board for free, please subscribe! I’m working on creating a presence on new social media sites (eg, Mastodon and Spoutible). It’ll take a while. I know you like the Editorial Board. It’s only $6 a month. (Save 17 percent for the year!) I hope you’ll join me. –JS

If I were still consulting, I would be urging these all businesses (not just media companies and not just indies) to develop brands and workflows on other platforms. When Twitter collapses (and it’s only a matter of time), they will be glad that they diversified. I am also talking with Fediverse developers urging them to make the kinds of tools that Rupar (and others) will need when they do flee BirdChan (as they sooner or later will).

I’m not trying to shame anyone into leaving Twitter, but this is now a business decision that they have to make. Staying is a guaranteed failure. The solution is to develop your brand in as many channels as you can and soon.

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6 Responses to Space Karen’s War on Journalism

  1. buckobear says:

    Long ago there was a saying “If you’re so smart, why ain’t ya rich?”
    Musk reverses the whole thing …. “If you’re so rich, why ain’t ya smart?”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. MDavis says:

    When your marketing channel (and frankly this is also a distribution channel issue too) is dependent upon the whims of an unstable billionaire, then your business model is going to fail.

    Hmmm, why does this sound familiar?
    Let’s see.
    Who can make casinos
    fail in record time?
    The trumpy man can.
    The trumpy man can.

    Can this mean, by the commutative property, that EMTD? Time will tell.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Little Davey says:

    Just a guy who consumes lots of political and social news…

    …it seems like Elon Musk is DELIBERATELY SCREWING WITH PEOPLE for his own pleasure…labeling NPR and BBC as state owned, that disbarrment of 10 journalists awhile ago, Substack…a “reasonable” explanation is that he is getting off on jerking people and institutions around, maybe.


  4. jilldennison says:

    I left Twitter the day Musk allowed Trump to return and while I thought I would miss it, I find that I really don’t. I DO, however, subscribe to a number of Substack blogs, including Joyce Vance, Aaron Rupar, Judd Legume and a number of others.


Comments are closed.