Small news outlets in the Midwest unfazed by Elon Musk’s idea to charge X users

Last week Elon Musk floated the idea of charging users to use X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. He made the suggestion – which may or may not materialize – during a live-streamed conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Musk said the company was “moving to a small monthly payment” to deal with the problem of bots.

Media companies had already started to pull away from X because of Musk’s ownership. NPR and PBS left the platform entirely, and other publishers have stopped paying to promote stories.

Illustration by Nishad Muhammad via Flicker

Much of the news coverage around X use and the media has focused on large media outlets, many with dedicated social media teams and the money to spend on them.

But smaller outlets also use social media, chasing readers, viewers and listeners to the digital platforms where they are increasingly getting their news.

A Pew Research study last year found that half of US adults get news at least sometimes from social media.

The biggest platform for news was Facebook, with 70% of the respondents stating they used the platform and more than 30 percent reporting that they got their news there.

A quarter regularly got news from YouTube, with smaller shares getting news from X (14%), Instagram (13%), TikTok (10%) or Reddit (8%). 

GJR asked smaller news organizations in the Midwest about Musk’s plan to charge users to see how it might impact them. 

Mary Koester, editor of North County News in Red Bud, in Southern Illinois, said the newspaper does not use X. The only time it did was in 2015 to cover the murder trial of a former Chicago police officer who was found guilty of trying to hire a hitman to kill the prosecutor who put him behind bars for killing his third wife.

“For social media presence, we mostly use our Facebook page or news briefs directly on our website,” Koester said. “However, we have gotten away from posting much on either of those.”

The North County News sends a Friday afternoon email, which has brief recaps of stories from that week’s issue, as well as any breaking news since the paper went to press. 

“We do share a link for that on our Facebook page,” she said. “Otherwise, the only things we really post on Facebook would be breaking news stories or matters of public safety.”

 Jeff Mulligan, news director for the ABC affiliate WSIL in Paducah, said X is part of the station’s social media plan but is not a focus.

“As has been mentioned numerous times before, many of the people who use X/Twitter are news personnel,” he said. “The average everyday social media user does not really rely on X/Twitter.  They use Youtube, Instagram, TikToc and Snapchat more than they rely on X/Twitter.”

In other words, that’s not where WSIL viewers are.

“Again, it is a platform that we make sure we are actively supplying content to but it is not something we devote a giant amount of attention to,” he said. 

The Illinois Business Journal does use X. But is unlikely to pay for it if that were to happen.

Editor Melissa Crocket said Twitter is “minimally beneficial” for audience engagement.

“The bulk of our impact and engagement with readers through social media comes from LinkedIn and Facebook,” she said.

Maryam Azadani is a correspondent at Gateway Journalism Review and a master’s student at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

Share our journalism