Business

Twitter’s New CEO, Linda Yaccarino, Has a Fearsome To-Do List

Some airlines have stopped offering customer service through Twitter because of the changes. Transit authorities and public health agencies paused auto-posting safety alerts until Twitter backed down on plans to make them pay the higher API fees. More confusion could be coming. Musk has said he will purge inactive accounts, potentially allowing the takeover of user names of dead celebrities.

Working with celebrities or other high-profile users isn’t exactly outside Yaccarino’s expertise. She has appeared on stage alongside TV stars and journalists countless times to pitch NBC to advertisers. She has also brokered partnership deals involving other media and tech companies. Perhaps the biggest card she can play is to point out that few alternatives to Twitter are truly thriving yet. People and organizations want an outlet to communicate with their fans and customers, and Twitter remains one of the few places that can provide that.

Soothe Business Squabbles

Since Musk’s acquisition of Twitter in October, a string of vendors has sued the company for failing to pay for software, office space, and other services. Hordes of laid-off and fired staff are in arbitration over the hasty handling of their departures. Even Twitter’s janitors went on strike over non-renewal of their services. 

About the only company to reach a fresh deal with Twitter since Musk’s reign began has been Yaccarino’s previous employer, NBCUniversal. The company announced early this month that it would promote its 2024 Paris Olympics content on Twitter, expanding on efforts during previous games.

Placating landlords and software vendors could be a new adventure for Yaccarino, who is more familiar with media deals. But that’s just a start. Regulators such as the US Federal Trade Commission have been questioning Twitter’s compliance with privacy rules and other legal requirements under Musk. Brokering quick settlements on all the various fronts could help clear some of the clouds hanging over Twitter, but it may take time for Yaccarino to get up to speed.

Get Profitable

Musk has shaved costs at every opportunity since buying Twitter, saying layoffs and other measures were necessary to keep the company from going bankrupt. NBC too has slashed costs during economic recessions, forcing department leaders such as Yaccarino to figure out which expenses to pare back. But NBC still hosted lavish advertiser presentations and red-carpet events to keep the dollars flowing.

How old-school tactics like those fit with Musk’s frugality is unclear. He’s known for pushing employees at his other companies to rethink parts and sourcing to radically bring down the costs of mass producing rockets and electric cars. Yaccarino will have to work with Musk to make Twitter more friendly to advertisers—for instance, by improving systems that measure whether ads drive purchases or brand recognition—without increasing labor and technology costs.

Handle Musk

The de facto leader of TeslaTwitterSpaceX, the Boring CompanyNeuralink, a personal philanthropy, and potentially a nascent rival to ChatGPT maker OpenAIMusk is spread thin, as he has admitted. He relies on hardcore lieutenants to get things done while he’s focused elsewhere. But his demanding style and his habit of parachuting in and out of his ventures have led him to churn through advisers, friends, and girlfriends at a clip.

Yaccarino has worked under exacting media barons such as Ted Turner, and she and Musk may have a good business relationship for now. But how long that will last is anyone’s guess. Musk in February laid off a product leader at Twitter thought to be loyal to him who was helping carry out changes the entrepreneur desired. Musk’s habit of conducting business or announcing changes of heart through tweets can catch subordinates and allies alike off guard.

More optimistically, Musk and SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell have managed to coexist since he convinced her to apply in 2002, with her ability to get things done living up to Musk’s expectations. It has helped that both rose through the ranks as engineers. Whether Yaccarino, who spent her career in television, can collaborate as productively with Musk in the language of internet software isn’t as clear. All the scrutinizing of social media companies she did to plow over them in her last job surely can’t hurt.

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