New York CNN
Elon Musk, Twitter's former CEO and owner for six months, decimated the ad revenue, alienated news publications, VIP users and plunged Twitter into chaos.
A new chief executive is now in charge of trying to turn the situation around.
Musk announced Friday that he will in the next few weeks hand over the CEO role to Linda Yaccarino. Yaccarino is a media executive with NBCUniversal and a former chairman of global partnerships and advertising. Yaccarino, who has been quiet publicly until now, only mentioned her enthusiasm to 'transform the business together'.
Twitter desperately needs stability from an industry leader. Yaccarino has the advertising industry expertise that Twitter desperately needs to attract top advertisers back and boost its business following a turbulent time. She may have trouble addressing Twitter's greatest problem: Elon Musk.
Musk may be stepping down as CEO, and perhaps attempting to reduce some of the responsibility that comes along with it, but he remains the owner and executive chairman of the company. Musk will remain in the C suite as Twitter's Chief Technology Officer. He is still Twitter's top user, so his controversial comments to his 140 million followers may continue to cause headaches for the company.
The CEO of a tech company is usually the face of their brand. Musk will continue to play this role with or without a title, to the detriment of Twitter.
Musk has received criticism for claiming that financier George Soros 'hates the humanity'. This week, Musk was criticized for claiming that Soros is a billionaire who is often the target of antisemitic conspiracies. Musk's twitter also came under fire in recent days after removing tweets and accounts on the government's request during the Turkish election. The company said that it would challenge the removal requests at court.
Musk stated on Tuesday that he "didn't really care" if his controversial Tweets caused anger among Twitter advertisers or Tesla investors. Musk told CNBC that he would say whatever he wanted to say and that if it meant losing money then so be.
"The question is, can she balance [Musk]?" Tim Hubbard is a management professor at the Mendoza College of Business of University of Notre Dame. He said that the top buyers of advertising are more likely than Musk to accept calls from Yaccarino, who previously stated he dislikes advertising.
Hubbard stated that 'the biggest problem with Twitter at the moment is they are on a path that turns off advertisers and turns off users'. Unless fundamental changes are made at Twitter, the leadership change will not have the immediate impact that Elon hopes.
Twitter has not responded to a comment request on this story.
Musk was a major topic at NBCU's ad-front this week. It was held just after Yaccarino resigned following rumors that she was appointed as Twitter CEO. A talking bear performed on stage during the event to promote NBCU platforms to advertisers. He sang: 'Twitter might seem like the best place to start, but Twitter has just let the crazies in.'
It will not be easy for Yaccarino, even if Musk were to reduce his tweeting -- a feat that he appears constitutionally incapable of accomplishing -- to revive Twitter's ad business, let alone expand it.
After Musk's takeover, many major advertisers have left the platform due to concerns over an increase in hate speech and frustration over the layoffs that affected the ad teams and safety team as well as general uncertainty over the platform's fate. According to Sensor Tower, only 43% of Twitter’s top 1,000 advertisers in September, just before Musk took over, were still advertising the platform last month.
For many, however, the decision to leave Twitter was not a difficult one.
Twitter, even in the best times, was a distant second in the digital advertising space to giants such as Meta and Google. It had a smaller audience and less sophisticated targeting technologies. Musk's acquisition came at a time when advertisers were cutting back on digital advertising across the board, during an uncertain economic period. This could make it even more difficult for Yaccarino to stabilize Twitter's business.
Musk has tried to replace Twitter's advertising business, or at least supplement it, with subscriptions. However, only a small fraction of Twitter users appear to have subscribed. Yaccarino's selection suggests that Musk is aware of the fact that his $44 billion bet on Twitter will be dependent on advertising sales for a long time to come.
Yaccarino may not have the freedom to hire more staff in order to fulfill her likely mandate to relaunch advertising on Twitter, after Musk laid off 80% of its staff last year. Even if Yaccarino is able hire, top talent might be reluctant to join Twitter after Musk restructured the company culture and reportedly reduced benefits such as work-from home and extended parental leaves.
Hubbard stated that 'Personnel will be a big challenge for her...if tech workers want a stable work environment, they'll probably stay away' from Twitter.
Musk's influence is still the greatest potential obstacle.
Musk said that he would oversee the product, technology, software, and systems operations while Yaccarino would focus on business operations. The announcement leaves open the question as to whether Musk will continue to be in charge of controversial policies, such as allowing users the option of buying blue verification checks, and restoring accounts of rule-violators, including white supremacists. These decisions have threatened Twitter’s popularity among users and advertisers.
In a press release, Jessica Gonzalez, the co-CEO at media watchdog Free Press, who founded the #StopToxicTwitter initiative encouraging advertisers to stay away from the platform, stated that cleaning up Twitter required reversing Musk’s dangerous policy decisions.
She said: 'Musk sets future CEO Linda Yaccarino to fail. As long as he makes the platform toxic, advertisers and users will not be able to return.