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Intro

[music plays] 

 

Niki: I’m Niki Christoff, and welcome to Tech’ed Up. My guest today is Kate Conger, who began covering the tech beat when Twitter was just becoming a thing. 

Seven years later, Kate is still reporting on Twitter, now for the New York Times, at a highly pivotal - and highly peculiar - moment for the company. Just after we taped this conversation, Elon Musk said there might not be enough bots to convince him to buy the social media platform. Then the Twitter board responded it’s gonna enforce the deal. Exciting times in the Twittersphere and we break it all down. Or at least…we try. 

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Transcript

Niki: Welcome to the studio. Kate Conger. Thank you for coming in today. 

Kate:  Yeah, thanks so much for inviting me. 

Niki: So you are in D.C. You're succonded to the Washington bureau of the New York Times. 

Kate: That's right. So, I'm on loan for a couple of months, and I'm helping out with cybersecurity coverage. And then, in June, I will go back to San Francisco and pick up my old beat, which includes Twitter.

Niki: Which includes Twitter.

So, I want to talk a little bit about three things; one: your career, as a tech journalist, you're kind of a utility player. You've covered a lot of different aspects and topics over the years. So I'd love to talk about that. And maybe how things have changed or evolved. Then your current role at the New York Times and your juiciest of beats, which is Twitter, [chuckles] which is a company that quite recently became more interesting because Elon Musk is going to buy it. 

And then, the final thing is just you're in D.C. And if you have any thoughts on things, people in D.C. might be thinking about or should be thinking about, um, we can just chat about that a little bit.

Kate:  Cool. That sounds good. Yeah, so I can start, I guess, talking a little bit about my career in journalism. I didn't come into it from a traditional background. I had been in art school and focused on creative writing and, y’know, got interested in journalism after I graduated. So, I worked in local media for a while in San Francisco, and then transitioned into tech and I think- y’know, the way that tech journalism evolved is really interesting. I think at the time that I was starting, tech kind of viewed itself as an underdog, and an upstart, and the coverage really reflected that. Y’know, a lot of the stories that were being written about companies: here's how this company is overcoming this big challenge or this big problem in society, you know.

And then a lot of these companies grew to be really large and really powerful. And I think, the, the coverage shifted to sort of interrogating that power. Talking more about the way that it was being used and flexed in society and the impacts that it was having, rather than viewing these companies as upstarts and underdogs.

Niki: Remind me when you started covering tech. 

Kate: Oh, [sighs] that's a good question. [Niki: It's been years] Yeah, I would say maybe 2014 or 2015, but I would have to Google myself [chuckles]  to find out.

 

[both chuckle]

But yeah, I mean, I think there was like a little bit of overlap when I was still in San Francisco media and, y’know, Uber was just getting started, and we were covering them from a local perspective because they were kind of upending the taxi industry in the city and Twitter was just kind of becoming a thing. And, y’know, we were trying to figure out, do we use this in our newsroom? How do we use it? How can this benefit or impact the coverage? So, so that's kind of the era where I started paying attention and covering tech. 

Niki: And this is maybe a good transition into the topic I'd love to dig into today, which is Twitter.

Kate: Sure. So I think the Twitter story has changed really dramatically in the last hours, days, weeks. It's just, it's a moving target right now. But yeah, the company has struggled for a long time, and in 2020, they sort of set out these really ambitious growth goals of how they're going to turn it around and make a bunch of money and bring on a bunch of new users.

And then, y’know, all of that got interrupted when Elon Musk said that he wanted to acquire the company, take it private, and now he has his own even more ambitious growth goals that he's laid out. So, y’know, I think everything, all the progress that we've seen Twitter make over the last couple of years, all the things that they've been trying to do, are kind of in question right now.

It's not clear whether those moves are going to remain a part of Elon Musk's roadmap once he takes over the company.

Niki: And when you say the moves, do you mean like what they're doing with content moderation, or do you mean business decisions? 

Kate:: I think both. Yeah. Y’ know, content moderation obviously has been a big issue for Twitter over the last couple of years. And they've expanded a lot of that with coronavirus misinformation and election misinformation. But also from the business side, y’know, Twitter has been talking about trying to double their revenue by 2023. All of that is coming from advertising, for the most part. And, y’know, Elon Musk has talked about the fact that he hates advertising and wants Twitter to become far less dependent on it and have it make up, I think he said 50% of the revenue rather than 90% of the revenue of the company. So, y’know, we're talking about sort of an ideological shift for the business and also a financial shift and a business shift.

Niki: Does Elon Musk believe that people will pay to use Twitter?

Kate: I don't know that I personally would pay money to be on Twitter, but some people do?!  Right, right now, there's this subscription service, Twitter Blue, that has, you know, a couple of little features. And I think it's three bucks a month or something like that. And so, there's people who are paying to use it today. And maybe more big brands would invest their money into, y’know, spending something for a Twitter presence? 

Niki: [interrupts]  Here's my take on Twitter. [Kate: Yes! Let’s hear your take]  Let me give you, here's my take on Twitter, and this is, this has long been my take. So, I think in, in D.C., at least, people think of Twitter as part of Big Tech. [Kate:mm-hmm]

I do not think it's big tech. It doesn't have money. It doesn't have a ton of users. [chuckles] Most Americans never use Twitter. I think it’s like, what? 15% of Americans even have a Twitter account. So, I think of it as lumped in with big tech because of its impact, obviously. And I believe that if people like you, and I'm not saying you personally, but people like you, meaning reporters, [chuckles] didn't use Twitter as a group chat function, [chuckles]  it would not have nearly the outsized cultural influence that it has.

And so, to me, it's like a really rarefied [laugh] space, but it's outsized in its impact because of who's on it with what they see and then what they then write about and report about. So then it leads politicians to be on it. And it's sort of this flywheel, but none of it seems to be rooted in any sort of, like, sustainable business model to me.

Kate: One of the other companies I cover is Snapchat, and I tell people this all the time, and they're shocked, but Snapchat has more revenue and more users than Twitter. It's a larger company. And yet, y’know, it occupies far less space, I think, in the collective consciousness and the debates about, y’know, what online speech should mean.

It’s something that Twitter is pointed out to, y’know, whenever they get sort of lumped into these conversations about antitrust that are going on with Facebook and Google, they're like, “Wait a minute. Not us! We are the small competitor that needs to be protected. We are not one of the big guys.” So, I think it's something that kind of bothers them as well, that they get lumped in with these other companies. 

Niki: I think that big tech companies, and for the moment I'll include Twitter in that category, [Kate: mm-hmm] influential tech companies have really different ethos.

And I do think that the team at Twitter, the trust and safety team, the cybersecurity team, I know people who work very closely with trying to deal with misinformation and bots, um, and harassment. And it is a really difficult problem, and it’s a pretty small company. And as we were just talking about, they don't have a ton of f- You're not, they're not this juggernaut like Facebook, and I think they have good intentions around that issue. It's just a really hard problem to solve. So they get this outsized attention for a sort of unsolvable riddle, and they're not even playing at the scale that, like, a Facebook is. Where I think Facebook, it's indefensible that they haven't done a better job with some of the misinformation on their platform.

Kate: You mentioned sort of the media influence that Twitter has, and sort of the choke hold that it has on reporters. [Niki: Do you agree with that? You don't have to agree!]  I mean, I, I think the New York Times agrees. [Niki: chuckles] Y’know, we were told recently that we should all cool off our Twitter usage a little bit and then, y’know, we shouldn't take into so much account, y’know, what people are saying on Twitter and use that as a litmus test for what people care about. And I think, you know,  I think that's the right approach. Like you said, there's a small fraction of Americans who use the platform and are, y’know, hooked on it the way that reporters often are. And there's just a broader scope of conversation that we should be tapping into. And I think, yeah, I think that's a very legitimate critique of the way that reporters use Twitter. [chuckling]

Niki: There's a ton of sirens. [Kate: yeah]  We just leave them in because it's, you have you're in Washington for the last few weeks, so, y’know, there's just, constantly, sirens. 

Kate: Yeah... It's- I was recording something the other day, and I had to stop, I don’t know, three or four times for sirens.

Niki: We just leave it! It's the beautiful soundscape of America [Kate: It’s atmospheric] 

[both chuckle] 

You haven't lived until you've been stopped by multiple motorcades in one week. [Kate: chuckle] So, okay. Tell me, let's talk Elon.  [Kate: Sure]  What do you think he's doing?

[both laugh]

Kate: I think he's trying to buy Twitter! [Niki: I think that he's going to buy it.] That's pretty clear that that's what he's doing. [chuckles] 

Niki: People don't think that's clear. People think he might be like head faking us, like punking us. 

Kate: Yeah. Yeah. I've seen some of that, of like, “Oh well, the deal might not close.”  And I don't know. I mean, I guess I will be on the record and say, I think the deal is going to close. And if it doesn't, then everyone can come back and see, make fun of me for it. 

But, you know, I think that. I don't know. Elon is just a very determined person. And I think when he sets his mind to doing something, he will just throw every resource and every hour that he can at making that thing happen.

And so, the idea that he would go to all the trouble and then back off seems just sort of out of character for him, y’know? So, I think, I think he is going to take this right to the end, as he said, and try to buy the company. And yeah, I think he's complained for a long time about the presence of bots on Twitter and the manipulation of the platform.

And so, I think that he has some genuine interest and concern in fixing some of the problems that he has personally been plagued by as a power user. If you go into the replies for any one of Elon Musk's tweets, it's a bunch of bots that are like schilling for crypto scams.

I almost clicked on one the other day. ‘Cause, it was very convincing. I was like, “Oh, this is an Elon tweet.”  And then I'm like, [panicky voice]  “Wait, wait, wait, don't click that! [Niki: People use his image!]  

People use his image. They'll, like, hack a verified account and then change the name. So it looks like it's verified, Elon Musk. [Niki: Wow]. And y’know, he experiences that all day and every day. And it's like, this is the primary problem with this platform and something that we need to fix. But I don't, I don't know if that's a universal problem. Like, I see a lot of that kind of spamming and bot activity in his replies, but not in the average user's replies.

So, I wonder a little bit if, like, some of what he wants to address at the company, sort of clouded by his own experience as a power user, and I think now the most followed person on the platform.

Niki: I think he’s now at 85 million followers.

Kate: He might be getting close to 90. I have to check on that.  

Niki: My gosh! Some of the things he's talked about sound good in theory to me, including that, dealing with the bots, dealing with- but I almost wonder if it's going to be a little bit like a dog that caught a car because it's not like there aren't smart people at Twitter who've thought about a lot of these issues. It's not like they love the fact that there are people hacking verified accounts and putting Elon's face on it. So, is what he's bringing cash? Is the idea because it'll go private, then they won't have shareholders expecting a return? I mean, I don't know how many Twitter shareholders are expecting a huge return.

Kate: Yeah. I mean, I think Elon does expect a return, for sure! Even if he doesn't, a lot of these investors that are coming in and joining his bid to take the company private certainly expect a return.

Niki: I meant the current shareholders don't expect a return! [chuckling] 

Kate: Oh! Oh! Yeah. I mean, I don't know, I think that the current shareholders have kind of held out hope that Twitter would catch up to Facebook in a number of ways and, you know, targeted advertising and user growth that they would sort of start to behave and make money like a normal social media company.

But to your point about, y’know, other people having considered these problems and worked really hard on them for a number of years, I think that's true. Y’know, I, I wrote recently about how a lot of Twitter's founders and early employees who were focused on content moderation started out with the same views that Elon holds, right?

Like, you know, when Twitter was starting out, we were hearing about it as the free speech wing of the free speech party. There was, y’know, that sort of iconic blog post that Biz wrote about,  “The tweets must flow.” and,  “ We're not going to take anything down because, you know, we need to serve that public conversation.”

And I think, over time, as these people have grappled with these issues and come to understand them more deeply, their views have obviously shifted and changed through experience. And, so, I think the question then facing Elon is, will he go through this same shift in belief and opinion that these other people have gone through when they've confronted these problems, or is he going to, y’know, bring a different approach, find a different solution to these issues that, that, everyone has kind of gone a certain direction on.

Niki: If I'm honest, if I'm just super vulnerably honest, in this moment, I will say that if I were not verified on Twitter, I probably would not be on it.  I get social capital out of having a blue check mark. [Kate: Really?] You don't think you do?  I mean, you don't have to, you don't have to be as honest [chuckles]. I feel like I get some kind of like, well- 

Kate:  [interrupts] What happens for you, that you, when you have a blue check?

Niki: All that happens is, it then sort of- makes honestly, it just makes me feel like, “Oh, I have a blue check mark on Twitter, this links to my idea of myself professionally. Why would I get rid of this account?”  I deleted my Facebook account years ago.  [Kate:  mm-hmm] There was no professional capital associated with it,  it didn't help me professionally. 

I think if they got rid of blue checkmarks it would actually fall apart very quickly because the most influential people who, and I'm not saying I am influential [chuckles]. In fact, several of my friends are like, “Why are you, how are you verified? How is this even a thing?” [chuckles]  And, I just remind them that I've been working in tech long enough that it didn't use to be that hard [chuckling] to get verified. 

But, I think that if you got rid of that as a marker, and you didn't have this sort of two-tiered experience, a lot of the most influential people wouldn't get as much value because people talk about feeling terrible on that platform. 

Kate: Yeah. I mean, I do think that it's a platform that can make people feel really bad about themselves, y’know, especially when you're the target of a harassment campaign or something like that, obviously that's really difficult to deal with. [Niki: And also just bad about the world!] 

[cross talk]

Kate: [not convinced] Yeah, yeah, it's kind of the, it's like a bad news- 

Niki: A bad news hose!

Kate:  Yeah, yeah. The importance or significance that I have as a reporter comes more from like the association with the brand I'm working for, y’know, in my case, the New York Times, obviously that carries a certain amount of weight. And I think that that's more where people, I don't know, view me or consider me versus whether or not I have a checkmark next to my name.

Niki: I think that is probably true.  [Kate: I don’t know] I guess what I'm saying I'm conflating two issues. [Kate: mm-hmm]  One, I think a lot of people using Twitter, the doom scrolling, the bad news hose.  It just, it's a reality distortion field where if you're on it for too long, you start to think that there's literally a wildfire in front of your house. [Kate: mm-hmm]

I mean, it's really alarming. So, I have to take breaks from it. On the other hand, it’s a great way for me to get- that's how I knew you were in D.C.!  I saw it on Twitter and DM’d you, like, I don't even have your phone number- I just sent you a note on Twitter. So, but for that, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

So, I think it is a platform where people, obviously, can connect and share news. I do think it has a high, high snark factor, high troll factor. I don't think it necessarily makes people feel bad the way Instagram photos of influencers and bodies make people feel bad. I think it's just like an existential dread amplifier. [chuckles]

However, I believe that part of the power comes from the powerful people on the platform. And I personally, I'm just saying, I'm not saying I'm a powerful person. I don't think I'd be on the platform if I didn't have a checkmark.

Kate: I think that part of the power, too, of Twitter and why it's such an alluring platform for people is that it is a public conversation. Y’know, I think, you can have a huge audience on Facebook, and many reporters do, or, y’know, a lot of people now are building audiences on LinkedIn and have these big professional circles on LinkedIn that they post to. But those things aren't. [pause] public by their nature, right? It's kind of locked into the group of people who are following you.

And I think what attracts people to Twitter, whether it's, y’know, the President of the United States or a new user who's just signing up, is the potential of being able to speak to the public, and to be discovered, and to be heard in that sort of general forum versus I want to, y’know, get in my group chat and tell my friends this thing.

It's like, “ I want to tell the world this thing.” Y’know? And, “ I, I want the potential to be heard at that scale.” And I think that’s what attracts people and really drives them to participation in that platform. 

Niki: And it's interesting- It will be interesting when Elon buys the company, which I think he will. I think he seems quite serious about it and then takes it private and then lets President Trump back on the platform who says, says, as of this week, that he's going to decline to be back on it. 

Kate: Yeah. He wants to stay. He has his own social media thing called Truth Social. And he says he wants to stay there. 

Niki: Right? [Kate: Yeah]  He's going to go back to Twitter because of exactly what you just said. Right? It's a bigger pond. [Kate: mm-hmm]

Okay! So, you're sitting in Washington. We both think that Elon is going to go through with it. He has these ideas of dealing with bots. He certainly doesn't like ads and wants to come up with a different monetization strategy. We've got the employees at Twitter seem beside themselves at this news because they have been working really hard to try to make the platform a better experience for people- they genuinely are trying to do that. And I think they're afraid of this sort of radical free speech approach, misses that, as you said, history of what they've done for the last several years is they've evolved their thinking and tried to manage not just what's happening in the U.S. but [emphasis] globally on this platform. 

What should Washington be thinking about? What do you think Washington is thinking about when it comes to this deal or this company?

Kate: Sure. So, there's a couple of things that Elon Musk has said that he wants to do with the company. Y’know, one is the obvious, like, financial process of taking it private. He's also talked about breaking up the revenue model, getting rid of ads or lessening the dependence on ads, relaxing the content moderation strategies, and then moving to a more open and transparent algorithm. 

And I think that those last two areas are the areas that have the most overlap with policy. So the content moderation issues and the algorithmic transparency issues. Y’know, I think it's been really unclear from a Silicon Valley perspective what it is that, y’know, Congress wants to do with content moderation. And every time they have one of these hearings, half the room is sitting there saying, “Why did you take this tweet down?” And the other half of the room was sitting there and saying, “Why did you leave this tweet up?” And it doesn't seem to go beyond arguments over specific pieces of content that someone likes or doesn't like.

So, y’know, I think evolving the thinking on content moderation and trying to get to the solution is something that is sort of missing. And, y’know, I hear a lot of folks in tech talk about how far ahead the E.U. is in regulating some of these issues and at least coming up with a framework for how they want to require companies to deal with content moderation.

And then the second issue, algorithmic transparency. This is something that Twitter has been pushing for a long time. Y’know, we were talking earlier about when Jack Dorsey came and testified, I think in 2018 or 2019. And he was saying, y’know, we want people to be able to bring their own algorithm to Twitter and use that to sort the content that they see in their feed. And they can choose what sorts of things they want to prioritize and what sorts of things they want to deprioritize. 

And this is something that Elon has latched onto as well and says, y’know, this is something he wants to do. That he wants the algorithm to be open and transparent so that you, as a user, can go in and look and see, “Okay, why did this tweet land at the top of my feed? Why was this tweet deprioritized or de-platformed? What's going on? How is this content being moderated?”

So, I think that that is something that Twitter has certainly been pushing for. And I think other social media companies will start to push for because they want out of this content moderation fight that they're in. [chuckles] Right? They want to be able to say, "You know what, like, we're not gonna sit here and nitpick, every piece of content. You guys make up your own minds. If you want to see it, look at it. If you don't want to see it, don't look at it." And, you know, algorithmic choice gives them a way out to do that. So, I think it's something they're really interested in.

And the question then for the Hill is going to be, is that the way that you want content moderation to go? Do you want to regulate in the algorithmic choice space? Or do you not? It is just fine to have users creating their own sorting algorithms for content and, y’know, subscribing if they want to a QAnon feed, or subscribing, if they want to, y’know, a CNN feed and having that kind of be the way that their content is filtered versus this sort of way it is now where Twitter is kind of making all of these choices based off of your social graph and who you interact with and using which tweets they're going to elevate for you in which they're going to deprioritize. 

Niki: Congress should be deciding what is legal or illegal speech. They're not able to do that, fundamentally. And so, now private companies have to, and as you said, it's like, it's an impossible bind. There's no right answer to any of this. It's all shades of gray. It's hard to explain it. And the idea that you would like, ascribe to your own algorithm seems to me very far removed from the way people here are thinking about social media. Like it's not even, don't think in our brains as an option, despite it having come up several years ago. 

Kate: Right? Well, maybe we should just talk about, y’know, how Twitter currently works and ranks content and how it might work in the future. But y’know, the way that Twitter's algorithm works today is, y’know, it, you open up your feed, and you see algorithmically ranked tweets at the top. So it's usually, y’know, people that you interact with regularly or subjects that you've interacted with, y’know, or things that people you follow or interacting with that they think, “ Okay. Y’know, enough of the people that you're interested in are interested in this content; therefore you might be interested in it as well.”  

It's all these kinds of decisions based on your social graph that are going into deciding which tweets are going to appear in the top of your feed,  And then there's other, y’know, content algorithms as well: when you go into search what tweets are going to come up first, when you go into the Explorer in the, in the news tab, what kinds of content is going to be there? Y’know, there's a lot of other algorithmic choices that are going into it; what accounts Twitter recommends that you follow. So, all of these things are being algorithmically decided  and Twitter creates those algorithms and tweaks them, and updates them as they see fit.

And that's, y’know, the case for social media on Instagram, on Facebook, et cetera. So. what Twitter has proposed to do is to [pause] open all of that up and allow people to potentially, y’know, bring their own algorithm to the platform. I don't think that we're at a point where the average user is going to sit down and write their own algorithm [Niki: No!] for, so for sorting their social media feed. [Niki: chuckles] Right?

You could imagine a case where, I don't know, an organization that you like writes an algorithm, and you subscribe to their algorithm, right? Like, so, maybe the ACLU makes an algorithm, and you're like, “Oh, I like the ACLU. I donate to them. I'm going to subscribe to their algorithm, and allow them to decide what free speech is, and what kinds of tweets should be at the top of my feed.” 

Niki: I find it inconceivable that people would be coming up with their own algorithms, but I have taken the time to mute many, many words over the last few years [chuckles] where I just start to feel really stressed out by certain things that are repeatedly coming up.

And it just, it's not why I'm on Twitter. I'm on Twitter, really, to see what reporters are talking about. I do get a lot of late-breaking news. There's great local D.C. news- shout out to Popville!- that I wouldn't get if I weren't on Twitter. So there are things I want to get, but I've muted abundantly for terms I just don't want to see over and over. It's hard to imagine, yeah, that we would all be sitting down curating our own algorithms and that people would want that. Because I don't know that people want to think about themselves being in a contained space. They want to think they're not.

Kate: Right. Yeah. I think that's true.

And y’know, I think Twitter does deserve some credit for already giving people a lot of choice over this, right? Like they, for a long time, have allowed you to go into a purely chronological feed instead of having an algorithmically ranked feed. I think Instagram just recently said they're going to start allowing that option, but Twitter has allowed it for a very long time.

Niki: And I use that too! [Kate: mm-hmm]  I use the chronological feed because, partly because I kept liking tweets that were embarrassingly old. 

[both laugh]

I felt like an idiot. But, so, I've got it chronological ‘cause also, yeah, I don't want to be, I don't want to be nudged!  Even though I know that the whole thing, I mean, maybe the reason I'm doing scrolling is my social graph is bleak. Who knows? 

Kate: Maybe if you followed less reporters, you'd see more positive content, 

[both laughing]

Niki: Maybe if I followed more cats, or I don't know, you're probably right! [chuckles] Maybe if I followed less reporters, they would feel less dire. We will end on that. [Kate: laughs] If I, if I broke out of my social graph of only following reporters like you and your friends and your group chat amongst yourselves [Kate: [jokingly] yeah, we’re so negative].

 

No,  you're doing actually, in all sincerity, doing really important work!

I do think for me Twitter is absolutely a newsfeed. Like, I find news stories. It's late-breaking news, especially big events that are happening. It's how I know what's going on. I don't know if Elon Musk will make it better or worse. I think from a business standpoint something has to change. It's not doing well as a public company, and so I think he's going to buy it, and then... [long pause] 

We shall see. 

Kate: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I can recommend you some good bots to follow if you want.

Niki: Yeah! What are some good bots? Give us some positive bots to follow! 

Kate: I think people always think bots are so negative, but there's a lot of, like, really fun bots on Twitter. One of the ones I really like is called Pomological, and it tweets sketches and illustrations of fruit [Niki: chuckles] from like the National Archive or something. Yeah, it's great. My friend Parker made it, so shout out to Parker!

Niki: Shout out to Parker!  [Kate: Shout out to Parker] [both chuckle] That's a good bot. You use a bot to auto-delete your tweets. Right? 

Kate: I do use something to auto-delete my tweets, called Semiphemeral. But yeah, Pomological. It tweets images from the pomological watercolor collection in the USDA's National Agricultural Library. It's great. It's just really pretty pictures of fruit. You should follow it. 

Niki: Okay. I'm going to follow it. Maybe instead of just using it for news and following billionaires and reporters [chuckles], I’ll have a better experience by broadening who I'm following. 

Kate: Yeah. Well, I think, I don't know, the news industry can be bleak at times, especially I think in the last two years, y’know, living through a pandemic and y’know, the war in Ukraine and all these things, like you can end up reading headlines all day and feeling  very depressed about the state of the world. And, y’know, I think it's good to try to pull back and log off and go outside. But also, y’know, try to intersperse things into your social media experience that can counterbalance some of that negative content. 

Niki: Well, this is, I mean, this is actually the point to end on, right? Which is, Elon Musk is not doing anything to us. We're doing it to ourselves. [laughs] I think that's probably my takeaway.

Kate: One of the things I really value about Twitter is being able to speak and communicate directly with our readership. Y’know, as a journalist, you spend a lot of time talking to sources and talking to people who are involved in the stories that you're working on and talking to editors, but you don't get a lot of ways to interact with the people who are reading those stories.

I think Twitter is, like, a nice way to fill that gap. But it's not the only way. And I think, y’know, there's other ways for reporters to fulfill that need and to be in touch with the people who are reading their work and who are impacted by their work and to find out, y’know, what they're thinking about a story.

So, I think that that's sort of the dynamic that we're pushing towards now is trying to figure out how to communicate and interact with readers and build those trust relationships with them without relying on the ease and convenience of Twitter.

Niki: I think that's a great goal to have. Well, thank you for coming in, and thanks for visiting Washington for a little bit of time before you go west.

Kate: Yeah. Yeah. It's been really interesting. People have tips about cybersecurity things or Twitter things or other things I'd love to hear from them. 

Niki: Yes. Kate Conger, I'm going to drop your Twitter feed into the show notes so people can follow you on Twitter. 

Kate: Great.

 [both laugh]

[crosstalk]

Kate: You can doomscroll my tweets.

[more laughter]

Niki: I'm going to drop your friends, fruit, fruit- [Kate: Fruitbot] into the tweets too. So someone can have at least something positive. I'll try to think of a couple other ones too. We'll put them in the shout-out. 

Kate: I'll send you some good bots. There's a lot of [Niki: Yes, send me some good bots.]

Niki: Okay. That'll give us a nice little positive nudge to everybody in the notes. Thank you, Kate, for coming on. 

Kate: Yeah, thank you so much for having me.

 

Outro 

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Niki: Just a reminder that Tech’ed Up is shifting to an every-other-week schedule, so be sure to follow us, so you don’t miss an episode. 

In our next chat, Payton Iheme from Bumble joins me in the studio to discuss the dating app’s crusade against digital flashing. That’s right, the gross but very real phenomenon of people sending unsolicited “dick pics.” You won’t want to miss it. Well, you might want to miss it, but you shouldn’t. See you in two weeks.