Everything is everything

But also…nothing? Let’s explore

Hi hi hi! I’ll spare you the “coming back from vacation doesn’t suck when you love what you do” spiel and just get straight into it—I actually do think the bear in China is a human in a deeply intricate and lifelike costume. I’ve studied the footage at length and won’t be accepting questions at this time.

Today: Let’s engage in a little bit of what we here at Smooth love to call “thot leadership.”

—Kinsey, Smooth cofounder and head of editorial

What Will Make the Everything App Everything?

Everything the light touches is yours.

In the wake of the most talked about name change since Kylie Jenner decided “Wolf” was not it, X (née Twitter) has said the quiet part out loud.

Now, El*n M*sk is someone against whom I’m typically diametrically opposed, so before you think I’m agreeing with that monster (I’m not), allow me to lighten the mood with a smattering of funny tweets (Xs?) about the Twitter name change:

Why we’ve been so fascinated by this X business: Everything is trying to become everything. Each major tech platform has deployed its own quiet strategies in the effort to own our online experiences outright—but it seems Twitter is the only one willing to publicize those efforts to become a so-called “everything app.”

Musk’s plans: a “moneyless marketplace + public square + video content factory…Twitter + Substack + YouTube + PayPal + Amazon + TikTok + WeChat + Baidu—all rolled into one universe marked by one letter: X,” as our friends at Axios put it. And wiping out a decade and a half of brand value by dropping the Twitter name is, apparently, the cost of doing business when your goal is to become everything.

But Musk isn’t alone in this ambition to apply Jobsian brand values to each and every one of our online experiences.

  • Meta (née Facebook née The Facebook) launched Threads on Instagram as a means of “sharing text updates and joining public conversations,” it said. We take that to mean capturing fed up Twitter users and bringing the coveted “public square” experience to its consortium of apps, which also includes WhatsApp—the closest thing we have to China’s WeChat.

  • TikTok (née Musical.ly) launched text-only posts to…pretty much accomplish the same thing as Meta.

  • Alphabet (née Google) is turning YouTube into a cord-cutter’s alternative to cable.

While Musk’s approach is jarring, Twitter’s strategic playbook isn’t all that original—change name, launch clear rip-off of competitor’s product, release statement on upleveling user experience, slowly take advantage of criminally outdated antitrust laws to buy anything perceived as elemental to the everything app. Lather, rinse, repeat.

We’ve been slowly marching toward these monolithic online experiences for the better part of the last decade. So why does this Twitter → X news feel like such a vibe shift?

We think it’s because these tech platforms are fighting a different kind of battle than the land grab for monthly active users that dominated the Big Tech conversation from roughly 2016–2021. Today, platforms aren’t playing Hungry Hungry Hippos for traffic—they appear to be more focused on winning over creators. 

The spoils are no longer record MAUs as a function of consumption, but owning the rails of online discourse, both literally and figuratively, as a function of production.

To be an everything app, you have to have the content consumers can’t function without—a few years back, platforms thought that meant signing A-list celebrities (i.e. Quibi forking over One Zillion Dollars for talent to star in their subpar content). Today, platforms recognize that can't-miss content is created by a commitment to attracting and retaining creators.

This year, we’ve seen platforms making (or at least trying to make) moves to win over those creators.

  • TikTok replaced its oft-criticized creator fund with a new payout structure, resulting in bigger checks for creatives.

  • Twitter started paying creators after months of vague suggestions it might, and the payouts are not small potatoes.

  • Reels (which also has a decently regarded creator payout program) expects annual revenue to grow to $10 billion this year, which would put it within spitting distance of TikTok.

  • Worth noting: YouTube has been doing this all along. It was the first platform to offer meaningful revenue for creators, enough to sustain full-time creator careers.

We’re encouraged by all this. It seems platforms recognize that becoming the future of television, the metaverse, online payments, or everything will require buy-in from early adopters and power users. Any legitimate effort to expand influence has to bear creators in mind—that’s table stakes these days. What defines winners and losers won’t be new features on product roadmaps, but the creators who choose to engage with them.

It’s hard to say where we go next as individual platforms stretch to every corner of our increasingly online existence—I remain unsold on the concept of the one-stop-shop everything app (call me old fashioned). But I do know this: It’s not just platforms that are powerful anymore. It’s creators, too.

This is a term we coined back in our Morning Brew days—a portmanteau of Digiday, BuzzFeed, Recode, Vox, and Axios. Obviously, the year was 2018 and the interest rates were zero. But still, the sentiment of “interesting media trends and news” remains. So the name stays.
  • We launched another newsletter! With Nick & Jack from business news podcast The Best One Yet, expanding their audio vibe into written word. Subscribe here!

  • Friend of Smooth Brian Morrissey wrote a superb piece about the role of events in modern publishing business models.

  • YouTube mega creator Ali Abdaal is launching a YouTube agency.

  • NYMag considers how AI might impact journalism. AI this, AI that, all I want to know is what Charlie Skinner from The Newsroom would say about it.

  • ICYMI: We’re on the hunt for a Newsletter Editor! Spread the word.

Post absolute numbers as Head of Partnerships? Easy. Book a dentist appointment? Nearly impossible.

Thanks for reading, everyone! Closing out today with a CTA: Josh is moving back to NYC and looking for an apartment (in this economy?). If you have any leads or just love scrolling StreetEasy, help your friendly local media CEO out. Okay, see you next week!