The traffic firehose isn't coming back

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Is LinkedIn The Future Of News? (Maybe)

Large online platforms have largely given up on the news business. Meta finally removed its dedicated tools for news publishers. Google is experimenting with removing the news tab from search results. AI chatbots are eating the last remaining ways that publishers can drive traffic to their sites. And Elon Musk, the owner of X, the site formerly known as Twitter, spends most of his days railing against the mainstream media. 

All of this has led to some pretty serious soul-searching among America’s journalists. Is the future email newsletters? Will podcasts save the news? Does everything need to be short vertical video now? Well, here’s a question that it might be time to start asking: What about LinkedIn?

Let’s first get the obvious out of the way: LinkedIn has never been a particularly sexy online platform. Yes, it has a huge amount of users —  their site currently boasts about a billion across hundreds of countries. But it’s less clear how many of them are actively using it on a daily basis to read and share content. A spokesperson for LinkedIn told me that around 44 million users are engaging with the main feed every week. 

When its users are creating and engaging with public content on its main feed, it also tends to be somewhat different than what you might see opening up, say, X or Threads. A LinkedIn account is tied to your work history and, assumedly, your real identity (though we’ll get to that in a sec). Which means LinkedIn posts tend to oscillate between bland and deeply unhinged. In 2017, the latter, a capitalist stream of consciousness posting popular with the site’s business-centric super-posters, was nicknamed “broetry“. That culture is not nearly as prominent on the platform as it used to be — much of it spread to X during the 2020 crypto bull market (back when it was still known as Twitter) — but there’s still a general HR-friendly, work-safe vibe to the whole place. 

But people are getting their news on LinkedIn. 

According to a Pew survey released last November, a little under a quarter of LinkedIn users say they get their news on the site. According to that same survey, LinkedIn news consumers are fairly evenly split between men and women, are overwhelmingly liberal, and almost 70% of them are under 49. So even though the platform may feel like an artifact from a different era of the web, when social networks functioned primarily as directories of personal contacts, that does appear to be changing.

As for what they’re reading and who they’re following, it’s a little harder to figure out. If you try and look up who the top influencers are on LinkedIn, you’ll find the same lists of well-known business personalities — Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Gary Vaynerchuk. And while they might be sharing content and have millions of followers, it’s not exactly journalism. Vaynerchuk, in particular, is a super poster, but all he really talks about is himself. Though, his new wine tasting show is pretty fun.

If you want to see a good example of what kind of thing is going viral on LinkedIn at any moment, this video a product manager in Madrid posted has blown up on LinkedIn. It is, essentially, a video resume. The comments underneath are impossibly positive, which, according to creators using LinkedIn I’ve spoken to, is largely true for everything shared to the site. (Though it is still a social network and people will argue with each other.)

But the perceived lack of toxicity might not be as real as its creators think it is. 

Last year, LinkedIn added a “rewrite with AI” tool that has been criticized for opening the floodgates on AI spam. And AI-generated profile pictures have been an issue on the site for years. As have fake commenters. And the real test for LinkedIn’s super positive community was Vivek Ramaswamy’s short-lived presidential campaign which was, in part, driven by his LinkedIn posts. Ramaswamy’s account was briefly locked after the site determined his posts contained “misleading or inaccurate information.” It’s unlocked now, but he hasn’t posted in six months.

Last week, I tried to use it to promote Garbage Day the same way I use X, Bluesky, and Threads: A screenshot of something juicy from the newsletter with a link and a caption. Engagement hasn’t been great — according to an email I got literally as I was writing this, my two posts received 1,348 impressions last week — but it’s also not nothing. And that’s really the best a publisher can ask for right now. The bar is truly in hell.

Finding a home for news publishers in 2024 isn’t about finding a perfect fit, but rather finding one that’s close enough — where people still read words. The traffic firehose days of the 2010s aren’t coming back. And LinkedIn is not the secret to infinite pageviews. But it might be a fertile spot to build an audience with relatively manageable issues. 

For all its retro, business casual vibe, LinkedIn is actually more in line with the way we tend to use the internet now. Users aren’t looking for a one-stop shop, a central feed to consume all of their content. They’re using specific platforms to express specific parts of themselves. And though internet engagement is always a toss up, there is one constant we can always count on: People at work are desperate for something to do other than work, and the news can serve as a nice distraction.

This essay was co-published with the fine folks at Fast Company. You can read a longer version of it over on their site by clicking here.

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Let’s Talk About The Fanfic Video Apps

Last week, a TikTok video started making the rounds on X that alerted the general population to the existence of ShortTV. It’s an app that has suddenly become very popular, seemingly out of no where. As streaming analyst Julia Alexander noted, ShortTV is now the number two most-downloaded app on iOS.

It turns out both my researcher Adam and I have been digging into this for the last few weeks. (We’re working on how we communicate.) Here’s everything you need to know.

First, there are a lot of these apps. ShortTV, ReelShort, Pocket FM. They all have the same content strategy for the most part. They either license or steal fanfic from sites like Wattpad, convert it into basic scripts, and then have it narrated over stock footage or, in the case of ShortTV and ReelShort, bring in actors to actually perform it. The video below, which is what blew up on X last week, is from a ShortTV series called Forbidden desires: Alpha's Love, which is a professor/student, step-brother/sister, werewolf fanfic, I guess.

While the majority of the content you’ll find on these apps is in English, many of them are run by companies in East and Southeast Asia. ShortTV, for instance, is owned by ShortTV Limited, which lists a headquarters in Hong Kong on a recent trademark application. And Rest Of World wrote a good piece last year about ReelShort and a bevy of other Chinese-run fanfic video apps, which keep accidentally turning their actors into weirdly famous werewolf boyfriends around the world.

A big chunk of the fanfic that these apps are adapting is from China and Korea, which they translate into English, largely for audiences based in the US, India, and Brazil. Also, as Adam noted, viewers from ReelShort end up checking out the ebooks of the fanfic on marketplaces like Amazon, which makes it trend over there, as well.

But the most interesting piece here is that these videos are being distributed on TikTok in one-minute chunks, where they hook users, and get them to download — and oftentimes pay — to watch more. The term “crackfic,” has been used for years to describe fanfic that’s so off-the-walls nuts you need to keep reading, but this is might literally be crackfic.

The real question is where to file this. Is this, as App Figures recently asked, the future of video? Or is this part of the Asian pop cultural renaissance happening right now? Or the Chinese tech invasion that Washington is freaking out about right?! Or is this just yet another piece of evidence that people on the internet are extremely horny for werewolves?

Tucker Got Pranked

You simply love to see it. Josh Pieters and Archie Manners are the same video creators that went viral in 2020 after they invented a “Campaign to Unify the Nation Trophy” and flew far-right UK columnist Katie Hopkins to Prague to accept it.

They’ve popped up again, this time on Tucker Carlson’s X show, with Pieters pretending to be the photo editor behind Katie Middleton’s Instagram post.

The pair went public about the prank before Carlson aired the episode, which is unfortunate tbh. I was very interested to see how his 12.6 million very real and human followers on X would react to something this absurd happening on his show, which they definitely watch for real.

Elon Makes A Meme


Most of Elon Musk’s memes are stolen, but I actually think he made this one. Because the layout is wrong. I think he took the NPC template and put it into your standard “top text, bottom text” generator and then wrote “bloodbath”. See how it isn’t even in the text bubble?

If you’re wondering what the context here is, Donald Trump, at a recent rally, reportedly threatened a “bloodbath” if he loses again. Although, now Trump and conservatives are saying that he didn’t mean that and that actually he was talking about automotive imports or something. Oh well, as long as everyone’s having fun.

When Musk wasn’t incorrectly assembling memes over the weekend, he was talking to Martin Sellner, a notorious Austrian white nationalist. Sellner was the guy who spent like all of 2017 sailing aimlessly around the Mediterranean trying to block migrants from getting to Europe. I actually went down to Italy to interview him at the time, but he blew me off and I ended up sitting around Catania for two days for no reason. The crew of Sellner’s ship was eventually arrested in Cyprus for… smuggling Sri Lankan refugees? Anyways, Sellner is so racist he’s banned from the UK. Which is important to note here because…

Elon Is Also Blocking Anyone Who Shares The Name Of A Neo-Nazi Cartoonist

Antifascist activists unmasked the infamous pseudonymous cartoonist StoneToss over the weekend. His real name is Hans Kristian Graebener and he’s from Texas. His work is as racist and antisemitic as it gets and a staple of far-right online spaces.

Immediately after the report on Graebener was published, X started automatically blocking any post with his full name in it. It also started blocking images of his face. Though, users quickly realized the filter didn’t work on images that didn’t contain his face, but did contain his name.

I am sure that it is simply a coincidence that Elon Musk is openly interacting with one of Europe’s most famous white nationalists and X is also running specific moderation defense for a neo-Nazi cartoonist.

Oh, and, just so we’re clear, X’s anti-doxxing guidelines don’t even apply here. Also, Graebener is has over 500,000 followers and clearly counts as a public figure. Also, also, Libs Of TikTok does this sort of thing constantly to random trans people and there are no issues, whatsoever. But it’s all bad faith and there’s no point trying to argue otherwise. You can read the full report on Graebener here.

A Drag Race Contestant Sorta Used AI

Okay, this is SO interesting. On last week’s Drag Race, the runway theme was “Flashback Drag Con 1980,” basically Drag Race if it was in the 1980s.

Mhi'ya Iman LePaige said that she googled “DragCon 1980s” and found an image that she would eventually use for her outfit’s inspiration. (It wasn’t my favorite tbh, I thought Nymphia’s was better.)

Users on the Drag Race subreddit found the image that LePaige used. It’s from a 2023 Instagram post full of AI-generated pictures imaging what Drag Race would have looked like in the 1980s. Which is actually kind of cool?

Good Subreddit


Saw this courtesy of the New York Times’s Mike Isaac. It’s a subreddit for photos taken by DoorDash drivers of people crawling out of their rotmaxxing nests to pick up their delivery order. It’s extremely good.

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