It feels as though in any week the past few months, I could have chosen which tech platform’s chaotic week I could report on in ALLi‘s news column. This week sees an old favourite returning to the fore. It has been another difficult week for X. And one of the platforms competing to be the place our industry ends up is Bluesky.
The problems stem from advertisers' reaction to what they have seen as an increasing prevalence of antisemitism on the platform, as flagged by the group Media Matters. The subject came to a head when one of Elon Musk’s posts suggested support for an antisemitic conspiracy theory. Large advertisers in the creative space like Disney, film studio Lionsgate, and the parent company of media giant CNN have all left X in concern about this direction in general and Musk’s post in particular.
Musk responded at the New York Times DealBook event in a way that only he could. He called his post “the worst” thing he had done. But he also used some characteristically colourful language to suggest what exiting advertisers could do to themselves. He suggested that if X went belly-up (which is no longer beyond the bounds of the imagination as the BBC has reported), these advertisers would be to blame. It’s an interesting take from someone many would look to as a shrewd business person, that feels somewhat akin to an author writing a book everyone hates then blaming readers for their ruin.
X’s official response to the fracas has been to say that it is shifting its attention to advertising from small and medium businesses. All of this comes just a week after The Bookseller found that X remains the platform of choice for the literary industry, albeit largely for reasons of inertia: they’re already there, it’s hard to switch to alternatives because they are often quite complicated to use, and there isn’t yet one single “killer app” alternative. It will be interesting to see just how strong that inertia is, and what will happen when it finally gives.
Another New Platform
One of the platforms competing to be the place our industry ends up is Bluesky. This is a decentralised social media platform that has exactly the issues the Bookseller piece describes in terms of complexity. I regularly see people on my Facebook feed saying they have an invitation going and does anyone want it, followed by a frantic scramble. That suggests demand. It also suggests a complexity that puts it firmly in the “not for me at this stage” basket. The platform is very keen to extract ex-X users, however, and has just announced a raft of measures designed to achieve that. The main focus of these is an automated moderation tool, presumably designed to avoid controversies like those embroiling X. What could possibly go wrong.
I will leave the last word on all this to someone who should have the last word on most things literary, Chuck Wendig, He has just issued a report card on social media that uses his familiar acerbic humour to deliver biting insights. His last word on the matter is simple. “THE BLOG IS ALL” (caps his.)