The clock's ticking for TikTok

Google gets serious about quality search results, OpenAI responds to Elon Musk's lawsuit, and more...

Happy Monday!

How good were the Academy Awards this year? Perhaps predictable with Oppenheimer dominating, but it was still a pretty good show overall with a naked John Cena not on my (or I assume anyone else’s) bingo card for the telecast. Kimmel’s real-time response to Trump’s Truth Social review of his hosting (“Isn’t it past your jail time?”) was his best line of the night. Dune: Part Two is the current film in theatres loved by both critics and audience members, which could have been part of this year’s Oscars race if it wasn’t for a delayed release. This guy showed his dedication to the film, arriving to the theatre on the back of a sand worm… (why is everyone so chill?!).

Hit reply to this email and let me know - what was your favorite moment of this year’s Academy Awards?

P.S. Read to the end to find out the next move for the Scottish actor who played a doomed Oompa Loompa, and all the best reporting and resources from last week!

For anyone with us for the first time, welcome to Inbound News! Just 10-15 minutes every Monday to catch up on the previous week. I cover the stories that matter with smart analysis and resources to help make sense of all the noise. But always with a healthy dose of skepticism and self-awareness. 😉 

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👍️ Social media

It may just be a matter of time for TikTok…

What’s happening: The US House Committee on Energy and Commerce voted unanimously (50-0) to proceed with a bill giving “China's ByteDance six months to divest from short video app TikTok or face a U.S. ban.” The vote came after TikTok sent a push notification which essentially tried to force its users to contact their local representatives to oppose what they framed as a definite banning of the app. Unfortunately for them, most of the people who responded were under legal voting age and clogged the phone lines of Congress.

Why it’s happening: It was almost one year ago that TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified in front of the Committee, in which he was aggressively questioned by both Democratic and Republican members. National security concerns have not cooled since then. Under this bill, TikTok would be defined as a “foreign adversary controlled application”. China is one of only four nations (Iran, Russia, and North Korea being the others) considered a foreign adversary.

Why it’s important: It first has to be voted on by the full House of Representatives, which looks like will be done next week. It then has to be voted on in the Senate, and there is a high likelihood that there will be challenges under the FIrst Amendment’s right to free speech, with a judge in Montana striking down a state ban on TikTok based partly on this reason. But the White House has stated that they support the bill. There appears to be strong bipartisanship support across both parties, which doesn’t bode well for TikTok’s chances to stay under Chinese ownership. Although Trump, despite leading the call for a ban previously, is now worried about Meta’s dominance if there was no TikTok.

The push notification was a big mistake by ByteDance. For a start, it wasn’t accurate to state Congress is “planning a total ban of TikTok”. The bill clearly states the app should be sold to avoid such a ban (obviously to a non-foreign-adversary buyer). Being deliberately misleading like this doesn’t exactly calm down the politicians and their constituents who are worried about misinformation and the political effects of TikTok on Americans.

It’s striking that most people who called Congress were apparently under voting age. Considering recent stats indicate almost half of all users on TikTok are over 18, it seems they didn’t feel it was important enough to contact their local representative. Perhaps this means most adults understand what the bill is actually proposing and they don’t really care who the owner is, which would explain the misleading focus on an outright ban by its current owners. Or they are just apathetic, and would be OK with replacing their TikTok usage with Instagram, YouTube and/or Snap if forced to do so one day.

There is still a lot to play out in the coming months or even years, and the most likely outcome at this point is that TikTok will be sold. Perhaps to a legacy media company like Paramount Global or Warner Bros Discovery desperately looking for a cash cow. But if you’re a creator or company overly reliant on TikTok, it would be sensible to diversify into other channels just in case it is ultimately banned. The House Committee Chair also specifically called out ByteDance’s other apps CapCut and Lemon8, so there may be similar impacts on these apps.

📖 Read the bill: H.R. 7521

Spying Conspiracy Theory GIF by DrSquatchSoapCo

Not a House Committee member. I think… Source: Giphy

⚡️ Social media quick bites

Meta (Facebook / Instagram / Threads)


Twitter (X)


  • MrBeast is encouraging creators to slow down and focus on storytelling to increase views; his signature frenetic style no longer works.

  • The 100 most-watched YouTube channels during February 2024 were named by Tubefilter; all received at least 600 million monthly views.


Google to clean up their search results

What’s happening: Google announced key changes to their Search product to improve its quality and the helpfulness of results. They are making algorithmic enhancements to their core ranking systems to surface the most helpful information and reduce unoriginal content. They are also updating their spam policies to keep the lowest-quality content out of Search.

“[W]e expect that the combination of this update and our previous efforts will collectively reduce low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%.”

Why it’s happening: Complaints about the quality of Google search results are perhaps not new, but have reached a crescendo recently. A recent study in Germany confirmed that “a torrent of low-quality content” when conducting product searches drowns out any kind of useful information on the internet. The study echoed concerns about how SEOs are the people who ruined the internet.

Why it’s important: The release of AI tools aimed at SEO is accelerating the amount of poor-quality content being surfaced. One AI tool owner publicly bragged about how he created 1,800 articles in a few hours by feeding the ranking content of someone else’s website into his tool and publishing the AI-generated content on his client’s website. These pages initially ranked and generated traffic. Due to the publicity, it appears Google applied a manual penalty and the pages then lost their ranking. The website’s traffic actually dipped below what it was before the articles were published.

Google is hoping that the changes they are making will catch these kinds of actions without needing their manual intervention. Keep an eye out this month as a major core update and new multiple spam policies are being rolled out to see how they affect the ranking of your content and websites.

season 2 sailor mouth GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants

Source: Giphy

🤖 AI

OpenAI has the best response to Elon Musk

What’s happening: OpenAI published a blog post in which they explained their reasons why they moved away from a non-profit model. They also revealed emails from Elon Musk in which he agreed that they would require billions of dollars under a for-proft business model, that he wanted full control of the company or to merge it with Tesla, and that the ‘open’ in OpenAI refers to sharing the fruits of AI and not the science behind it.

“We're sad that it's come to this with someone whom we’ve deeply admired—someone who inspired us to aim higher, then told us we would fail, started a competitor, and then sued us when we started making meaningful progress towards OpenAI’s mission without him.”

Why it’s happening: This is OpenAI’s public response to a lawsuit filed by Elon Musk at the start of the month. Musk is claiming OpenAI and CEO Sam Altman are putting profit ahead of the good of humanity with its investment deal with Microsoft.

Why it’s important: OpenAI is the current leader in the development and release of AI tools with their flagship product ChatGPT. Musk has found xAI as a rival organization to develop AI, including its chatbot Grok currently only on offer to paid subscribers of Twitter (X). The lawsuit itself is a bit of a joke legally speaking, but it reveals Musk’s frustration at missing the chance to control the world’s leading AI organization. OpenAI’s response demonstrates how to deal with Musk’s rewriting of history by using his own words against him.

📖 Read the OpenAI blog post: OpenAI and Elon Musk

Elon Musk Snl GIF by Saturday Night Live

OpenAI certainly knows better… Source: Giphy

💫 AI quick bites

✍️ The best reporting last week

The Meta outage was short, but impactful

People’s stories were at stake: Deepti Hajela and Wyatte Grantham-Philips from AP discuss what it now means when we lose access to social media.

No, Mark Zuckerberg isn't having a 'PR moment'

Meta has rarely been in such hot water: Karissa Bell from Engadget brings a dose of reality to recent media reports fawning over Mark Zuckerberg.

Everything Google lied to us about

Recent court cases have helped to expose the lies: Michael King from iPullRank created this neat slide deck to show how many lies.

🧠 Resources to level up

11 best productivity apps for social media marketers

Become organized: Francesco D’Allesio reveals on the Buffer blog the best software and tools for social media marketers to consider in their roles.

How SEO and social media teams can nail collaboration

13 ways for teams to work their magic: Sam Hollingsworth on the Search Engine Land blog details each way teams can improve results together.

Don’t let your thought leadership become irrelevant

Focus on actually leading in thought: Robert Rose from the Content Marketing Institute breaks down what’s required for true thought leadership.

2024 social media algorithms for all channels

Check you’re aligned with the ranking signals for your content: Christina Newberry from Hootsuite outlines them all for eight different platforms.

How to rebrand as a content creator…

And stay relevant: Erica Santiago from HubSpot spoke with YouTuber Lisa De La Cruz who recently went through a rebrand herself for insights and tips.

😲 Really?

Milking that 15 minutes…

Scottish Oompa Loompa cashes in: I talked about ‘Willy’s Chocolate Experience’ held in Glasgow, Scotland last week. Apart from scarring young children for life, it was also memorable for the terrible use of AI imagery to advertise something that was never going to exist. There was also the brave actor Kirsty Paterson, who played an Oompa Loompa to the best of her ability despite looking like she was in an episode of Breaking Bad. She’s now decided to cash in on the attention by announcing she’s available for videos on Cameo. As of writing, she’s done 40 videos and boasts an average score of 4.97, perhaps proving she was born for the role after all? Others are more cynical about the line from internet stardom to a Cameo appearance. In this case at least she is an actor who appears to genuinely enjoy entertaining people, so why not?!

Source: Independent

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