Twitter’s evolution into a major streaming platform continues

Social media service Twitter is rapidly becoming a major video and audio streaming platform, following a string of significant announcements.

The most high-profile of them was the news that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis intends to officially launch his bid to run for US President in a discussion with Twitter owner Elon Musk, broadcast on Twitter’s ‘Spaces’ audio steaming service later today. The underlying significance of this is the apparent calculation by DeSantis, who is considered to be Donald Trump’s main rival to be the Republican nomination for President, that Twitter is the best platform for his purposes.

Of course, being interviewed by the person with the number one Twitter account will have been a major part of that calculation, but it’s still a risk. While the emergence of Trump established Twitter as arguably the most significant platform for political communication, until recently that would only have taken the form of tweets, so DeSantis is breaking new ground. Additionally, Musk himself has become a politically polarising figure, so DeSantis should be wary about appearing too close to him.

Coinciding with this news is the announcement by the largest US conservative-focused news site The Daily Wire that its DailyWire+ shows will stream for free on Twitter.

“At this moment, Twitter is the largest free speech platform in the world,” said Daily Wire co-CEO Jeremy Boreing. “The overwhelming amount of positive feedback from our advertisers and audience after putting ‘The Matt Walsh Show’ on Twitter signals to us there is tremendous opportunity, which is why we’ve decided to distribute the rest of our shows on Twitter.

“If Elon Musk stands by his commitment to make Twitter a home for free speech and delivers on monetization opportunities and more sophisticated analytics for content creators, I imagine we will invest even more into the platform.”

All this comes just a couple of weeks after popular US newscaster Tucker Carlson announced he intends to broadcast directly to Twitter following his departure from Fox News. Carlson was also apparently seduced by the allure of Twitter as a free-speech platform, having grown frustrated at the guardrails imposed by conventional media organisations.

At the time Twitter didn’t seem to have the capacity to host the kind of hour-long shows Carlson is known for making. Musk wasted little time in addressing the matter with the announcement just a week later that premium Twitter subscribers can now upload videos of up to two hours in length.

Eagle-eyed followers of US political culture will have noticed that all of the above involve major figures of the perceived political right in that country. Not content to rest on its Watergate laurels, the Washington Post joined the dots and concluded Twitter is now a ‘right-wing media venture’. This doesn’t seem to be meant as a compliment and you have to wonder if the WaPo would have rung similar alarm bells had it instead detected a left-wing bias.

The next US general election is just 18 months away, so it seems like a good strategic move for Musk to try to make Twitter the destination for political obsessives, even more than it already is. The ultimate traffic driver, however, is Trump, who has been absent from the platform since it kicked him off following the Jan 6 Capitol riots. Musk reinstated him last year and it seems unlikely he will be able to resist a return as campaigning hots up.


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