As a writer, Stephen King is famous, prolific, and respected. He’s published over 70 novels, novellas, and non-fiction books. ‘Salem’s Lot is casually referenced in verse by Eminem. Neil Gaiman said he read King’s On Writing and began removing adverbs from a draft of American Gods.
Famously slow writer George R. R. Martin once jokingly asked King how he wrote books so fast. Fast or otherwise, King doesn’t need to write anymore. Conservatively King’s net worth means he could never work another moment of his life, and he’s already enshrined as a legend.
Harper Lee is universally considered a great American novelist. Most can name her entire two book bibliography in one breath. Certainly, few joke that they require reminders films they love are based on her work.
At this point, King writes because he wants to write. He has a book coming out in September of 2023. And for over nine years, he’s used Twitter frequently, if not daily.
In other words, Stephen King, a wealthy, household-name author, has written for free on Twitter for nearly a decade.
Twitter Needs A Creator Class
Twitter is not a traditional publisher. But bird website shares a business model similar to that of all ads supported publishers. A circle that requires creators, advertisers, and consumers.
If content isn’t attracting consumers reach drops. If reach drops advertisers leave. If advertisers go away, the publication dies. All for the want of a horseshoe nail. For better or likely for worse that’s the grim reality of ads supported publishing.
So much of Twitter’s value is real celebrities choosing to use the site mostly unfiltered by communications teams, and agents. On Twitter, King and the many other legit celebrities who actively use the platform represent the kings and queens of the creator class. And every single one of them is effectively working for Twitter for the love of the game.
Twitter is the only large social network that doesn’t offer any form of ads revenue sharing with creators. Ice-T, Gwyneth Paltrow or Ryan Reynolds may successfully use Twitter to drive measurable sales of concert tickets, mobile phone service or vagina scented candles. But most of the creator class give far more to Twitter than they receive.
Ice-T has been going hard musically since the ’80s. He’s pre-Twitter, in fact, pre-internet. He’s filled venues for a long time. Now he has mainstream fame and assuredly a well-funded team to promote shows. Save for the odd brand deal that asks him to Tweet, Ice-T is on Twitter for fun.
King has less reason to use Twitter than nearly any celebrity. If King wanted to hit billionaire status, hiring some sharky MD from Goldman Sachs to run a family office is more efficient than writing. If He wanted to promote his next book, few publications on earth wouldn’t let him publish a personal essay about, well, anything he wanted, with a fat editors note that he’s promoting a forthcoming novel.
If King wrote an article for The New York Times it would undoubtedly be promoted across the Time’s Twitter, Facebook, Email, home page, Google News and the print addition. A distribution greater than the distribution for King’s own Twitter. King could write for AARP The Magazine and the Costco Connection and reach over 30 million more people in print. What’s more, no editor would turn down his article.
Twitter Does Not Drive Traffic
Citing my ad agency demon pedigree here, Twitter is a poor traffic driver for most publications. Social traffic for a typical publication is under 14% of all traffic. Search is the largest traffic source for publications normally over 55% of all traffic. Direct traffic people visiting is typically over 23% of total traffic.
Most of the traffic from social in the world of publications comes from Facebook. Across verticals Facebook is almost always over 40% of the traffic from social for a publication (something like 5.6% of total traffic). Twitter is charitably responsible for something like 20% of social referrals (2.8% of total traffic).
Those numbers are based on data I’ve looked at across a selection of sites, and very by topic. Crypto for example gets far more traffic from Twitter, and cooking media gets a lot of traffic from Pinterest. But on the average, Twitter is a modest portion of traffic for established publications.
Yet journalists and media types spend a lot of time on Twitter. Media types are a lower form of creator class than legit famous people, but they are needed for the ecosystem. Prior to Musk they were catered to, because the knight and bishop class were good for business.
Twitter Gains Much From The Media Class
The content of journalists, bloggers, podcasters and YouTubers backfills the content pathways celebrities leave vacant. This lower tier creator class also create content off of Twitter where they on average have far more distribution. The time these folks spend on Twitter is reflected off the site.
Twitter is linked to from virtually every page of every publication on the internet. The social network is shouted out in nearly every news, and entertainment broadcast often by media types who themselves ascended to true fame. The value of the media coverage and links Twitter’s received is absurd.
Twitter in part by design, but largely by network effect became the quote builder. Everyone from truly famous people to utter randos has the chance to have Tweets end up mentioned or embedded on a popular site. I’m closer to rando than famous, and a cursory search for my Tweets embedded in media sites shows Mediaite, BuzzFeed News, HuffPost, something called Sportskeeda and a dozen more.
The network effect serves to drive celebrities, and those in the media class to use Twitter more. The circle continues as celebrities attract normal people, and normal people attract brand dollars. Twitter became a customer support hub largely due to the size of the existing network, and that made the network effect stronger.
So What Is In It For Stephen King?
Whatever brain chemicals Stephen King gets from using Twitter is all he receives from his free work adding value to the platform. Since King has perhaps the fewest reasons to use Twitter of any famous person on earth, his happiness should literally be a Twitter success metric.
Article by Mason Pelt of Push ROI. First published in MasonPelt.com on April 3, 2023. Disclosure at the time of publication, Mason Pelt is locked out of Twitter for being Elon Musk’s mother for several hours on March 31st.