Will Advertising Ruin Threads?

John Battelle
3 min readDec 11, 2023

It doesn’t have to.

With thanks to Scott Monty

I stopped using Twitter over a year ago, as soon as Elon Musk took control of the place. I don’t miss it — it was already a pretty toxic place, and my tenure at The Recount, a political media company, ensured I had to engage with most of Twitter’s worst attributes.

But when Meta launched Threads, its Twitter clone, I figured I’d give the new service a try. I’d played around with Mastodon, but found it a bit sparse, and Meta’s commitment to the fediverse (still unfulfilled), plus its integration with Instagram (a built in network!) felt worth checking out.

I was early to the party (day one, I think), and over the past few months, Threads has become a pretty good alternative to the never-ending question of “what’s happening, now?” I used Twitter mostly for news, and Elon has been doing a bang-up job of driving journalists into Meta’s arms. As most Twitter refugees noted upon signing up, Threads felt far less toxic and much more welcoming than whatever “X” was becoming. Plus, Threads’ engagement — its comments in particular — seemed far more well intentioned.

But as soon as I started using Threads, I noticed something missing: There were no ads.

It’s normal for a new social media platform to launch without ads, but Threads is a social media platform from Meta, after all. Nearly six months and more than 100 million active users later, I’m pretty sure ads are coming to Threads soon. When they arrive, I’m afraid Threads’ rosy bloom will likely fade. Advertising injects often insidious economic incentives into social networks, and lays traces for all manner of corrosive and well-documented behaviors. New signals inform the platforms’ algorithmic choices of what to show us; new revenue streams encourage bad actors to create spam farms, click bait, fake accounts, and worse.

But there are proven ways to combat these inevitabilities. Were I at Threads, I’d take a hard look at an innovation first launched at Twitter way back in 2012. It’s called Amplify, and I wrote about it at length back in 2020. Amplify was invented to encourage media companies to bring…

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John Battelle

A Founder of The Recount, NewCo, Federated Media, sovrn Holdings, Web 2 Summit, Wired, Industry Standard; writer on Media, Technology, Culture, Business