New York (CNN) During his six months as CEO and owner of Twitter, Elon Musk has decimated its advertising business, alienated some news publications and VIP users, and plunged the platform into a constant state of chaos.
Now, a new CEO will be tasked with trying to turn things around.
Musk announced Friday that in the coming weeks he will be handing over the CEO role to Linda Iaccarino, a longtime media executive and former head of global advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal. Iaccarino hasn’t said much publicly yet, other than to indicate her enthusiasm for “turning this business together.”
Twitter desperately needs the stability of a leader. And Yaccarino brings the ad industry segments Twitter desperately needs to lure back big advertisers and boost its business after a turbulent period. But she may struggle to tackle Twitter’s biggest problem: Elon Musk.
Although Musk is handing over the CEO position — and perhaps trying to shed some of the accountability that comes with it — the billionaire remains in charge of the company as its owner and CEO. Musk will remain in the C-Suite as Twitter’s chief technology officer. He remains Twitter’s most followed user, which means his controversial remarks to his nearly 140 million followers may still be a headache for the company.
In technology, the CEO is often the public face of the brand. But Musk will almost certainly continue to fill that role, with or without the title, most likely on his Twitter account.
Just this week, Musk sparked a backlash for attacking billionaire George Soros, a frequent target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, saying the financier “hates humanity.” Musk’s Twitter has also faced criticism in recent days for deleting some tweets and accounts at the request of the Turkish government amid the country’s elections. company he said later Will contest removal requests in court.
On Tuesday, Musk said he “didn’t care” if his controversial tweets angered Twitter advertisers or Tesla shareholders. “I will say what I want to say, and if the result of that is losing money, then so be it,” Musk said in an interview with CNBC.
“The question is: Can it help with balance [Musk]said Tim Hubbard, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza School of Business. He added that big ad buyers are more likely to get calls from Yaccarino than Musk, who has previously said he hates advertising.
“The big problem with Twitter right now is that they’re down a path that turns off advertisers and turns off users,” Hubbard said. “Unless there are fundamental changes to Twitter, I don’t think so [the leadership change] It will have the immediate impact Elon hopes it will have.”
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Musk’s case was featured in full at NBCU Advance Announcement This week, held shortly after Yaccarino resigned from the company following rumors of her appointment as CEO of Twitter. Onstage at the event, which was intended to promote NBCU’s platforms to advertisers, a talking bear sang to audience members: “Twitter might seem like the place to start, but Twitter just lets all the crazy people in again.”
Even if Musk retracts his tweets, a feat he seems constitutionally incapable of achieving, it won’t be easy for Yaccarino to revive the Twitter ads business — let alone expand it.
Several major advertisers left the platform after Musk’s takeover due to concerns about the rise of hate speech, frustration over the layoffs of so many of the company’s advertising and safety teams, and general uncertainty about the platform’s future. Only 43% of Twitter’s top 1,000 advertisers as of September, the month before Musk’s acquisition, were still advertising on the platform as of last month, according to data from market intelligence firm Sensor Tower.
But for many, leaving Twitter may not be particularly difficult.
Even in the best of times, Twitter was also operating in the digital ad space compared to tech giants like Meta and Google, with a smaller user base and less sophisticated ad targeting technology. Musk’s acquisition of Musk came after several advertisers pulled their spending on digital ads across the board during an uncertain moment for the economy. That could add to the difficulty Yaccarino will have in supporting Twitter’s business.
Musk, for his part, has been trying to supplement, and possibly replace, to a large extent, Twitter’s advertising business with subscriptions, but only a fraction of Twitter users seem to have made the purchase. The choice of Yaccarino signals an admission on his part that the company he is betting $44 billion on will continue to rely on ad sales for the foreseeable future.
It’s not clear how freely Yaccarino will have to hire additional staff to support its potential mandate to revive ads on Twitter after Musk laid off about 80% of the company’s staff last year. And even if it is able to hire, top talent may be wary of joining Twitter after Musk upended the company’s culture and rolled back benefits like work-from-home and extended paternity leave.
“The staff is going to be a huge challenge for her… If tech workers are looking for a stable work environment, they should probably stay away from Twitter,” said Hubbard.
But Musk’s continued influence remains the biggest potential hurdle.
Musk said he will oversee product, technology, software and systems operations, while Yaccarino will focus on business operations. The ad left an open question about whether Musk would remain responsible for controversial policy decisions, many of which — including allowing users to buy blue checks and restoring accounts of rule-breakers, including white supremacists — threatened Twitter’s popularity with users and advertisers.
“Cleaning up Twitter requires reversing Musk’s dangerous policy decisions, reinvesting in content moderation and enforcement, and restructuring the platform’s governance,” Jessica Gonzalez, co-CEO of media watchdog Free Press who helped found the #StopToxicTwitter campaign encouraging advertisers to shun the platform, he said in a statement.
“Musk is designating future CEO Linda Iaccarino for failure — as long as he continues to make the platform toxic, it will be impossible to attract advertisers and users again,” she said.
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