A new CEO won’t fix Twitter’s biggest problem | CNN Business
During his six months as CEO and owner of Twitter, Elon Musk decimated its ad business, alienated some news publications and VIP users, and plunged the platform into a state of constant chaos.
Now, a new chief executive will be tasked with trying to turn things around.
Musk announced Friday that in the coming weeks he would cede the CEO role to Linda Yaccarino, a media executive and former president of global advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal. Yaccarino has said little publicly so far, beyond noting his excitement to “transform this business together.”
Twitter desperately needs the stability of a leader. And Yaccarino brings the advertising industry that Twitter needs to attract top advertisers and boost its business after a turbulent period. But it may have trouble addressing Twitter’s biggest problem: Elon Musk.
While Musk is handing over the CEO title and perhaps trying to shed some of the responsibility that comes with it, the billionaire remains firmly in charge of the company as owner and executive chairman. Musk will still be in the C-Suite as Twitter’s CTO. And he remains the most followed user on Twitter, meaning his controversial statements to his nearly 140 million followers could still cause headaches for the company.
In tech, 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, likely to Twitter’s detriment.
Just this week, Musk sparked backlash for baselessly 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 removing some tweets and accounts at the behest of the Turkish government amid the country’s elections; the company he said later would oppose removal requests in court.
On Tuesday, Musk said he “didn’t care” if his controversial tweets drew the ire of Twitter advertisers or Tesla shareholders. “I’m going to say what I want to say, and if the consequence of that is losing money, so be it,” Musk said in an interview with CNBC.
“The question is, can it help balance itself out? [Musk]?” said Tim Hubbard, professor of management at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. He added that major ad buyers are more likely to get calls from Yaccarino than from Musk, who has previously said he hates advertising.
But “the big problem with Twitter right now is that they’re on a path that turns off advertisers, turns off users,” Hubbard said. “Unless there are fundamental changes at Twitter, I don’t think so [the leadership change] it will have the immediate effect that Elon hopes it will have.”
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Musk’s problem was on full display at NBCU announcement ahead this week, which was held shortly after Yaccarino resigned from the company following rumors of his appointment as Twitter CEO. Onstage at the event, which was aimed at promoting NBCU’s platforms to advertisers, a talking bear sang to audience members, “Twitter may seem like the place to start, but Twitter just let all the crazy people in “.
Even if Musk retracts his tweets, a feat he seems constitutionally incapable of accomplishing, it won’t be an easy task for Yaccarino to revive Twitter’s ad business, let alone expand it.
Many major advertisers left the platform after Musk’s acquisition amid concerns about an increase in hate speech, frustrations over the firing of much of the company’s security and advertising teams, and general uncertainty about the future of the platform. Only 43% of Twitter’s top 1,000 advertisers in September, the month before Musk’s acquisition, were still advertising on the platform last month, according to data from market intelligence firm Sensor Tower.
But for many, leaving Twitter may not have been a particularly difficult call.
Even at its best, Twitter was also an asset in the digital advertising space compared to tech giants like Meta and Google, with a smaller user base and less sophisticated ad targeting technology . And Musk’s acquisition came as many advertisers have cut their spending on digital advertising in general during a precarious time for the economy. This could only add to the difficulty Yaccarino will face in strengthening Twitter’s business.
Musk, meanwhile, has tried to supplement, and potentially largely replace, Twitter’s advertising business with subscriptions, but only a small fraction of Twitter users seem to have bought in. Yaccarino’s selection suggests a recognition on his part that the company he bet $44 billion on will continue to depend on ad sales for the foreseeable future.
It’s unclear how much freedom Yaccarino will have to hire additional staff to support his likely mission to revive advertising on Twitter after Musk laid off about 80% of the company’s staff last year. And even if he is able to hire, top talent may be wary of joining Twitter after Musk changed the company’s culture and reportedly rolled back perks like working from home and the extended parental leave.
“Staff will be a big challenge for her … if tech workers are looking for a stable work environment, they’ll probably stay away from Twitter,” Hubbard said.
But Musk’s continued influence remains the biggest potential obstacle.
Musk has said he will oversee product, technology and software and systems operations, while Yaccarino will focus on business operations. The announcement has left open the question of whether Musk will remain in charge of controversial policy decisions, many of which, including allowing users to buy blue verification checks and restoring the accounts of rule breakers, including white supremacists, have threatened Twitter’s popularity among 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 to found the #StopToxicTwitter campaign encouraging advertisers to avoid the platform. he said in a statement.
“Musk is setting up future CEO Linda Yaccarino for failure — as long as he continues to make the platform toxic, it will be impossible to attract advertisers and users,” he said.