Twitter—the site that owner Elon Musk has desperately tried to convince users is now “X”—has a CEO, but based merely off public pronouncements, you’d still think the billionaire tech mogul is still its head. CEO Linda Yaccarino stepped up to the plate to take over Twitter’s mess back in June, but since then we’ve heard little from the person in charge of the app formerly known by its blue and white bird logo.
In a Thursday interview with CNBC, X-Corp CEO Yaccarino finally had her time to shine, and she used her 15 seconds of fame to stump for Musk’s brand of the soon-to-be “everything app.” With expert grace, she pivoted away from overt questions about the company’s rebrand to share more of Musk’s vision for the future rather than the mess of the present.
Yaccarino was able to use her time on mic with Squawk on the Street’s Sara Eisen to extol the magic of people being paid for posting on Twitter along with potential plans to let users send money between each other. All in all, she called the emotional and physical demolition of the bird app branding a “liberation from Twitter” as now the company can move past the “legacy mindset” of the previous micro-blogging app.
Her on-brand speech shouldn’t be too surprising, considering her support Twitter as the world’s “town square” talking point. Musk rarely gives sit down interviews and has a hate-hate relationship with most of the world’s media and press, but Yaccarino previously held a position as an executive at NBCUniversal where she grew the company’s ad revenue.
Her goal at Twitter doesn’t so much seem to be a thought leader but to be the steering hand for Musk’s vision. She instead sees her role as the day-to-day operator and the person in charge of keeping wary advertisers happy. That being said, Musk has made Yaccarino his chief juggler and thrown her a lot of objects to keep up in the air. She has to deal with a platform that has skewed to the right thanks to her new boss. She has to pretend the proliferating hate speech on the platform isn’t out of control.
Compared to Musk’s off-the-cuff, say-what-I-want demeanour, Yaccarino is the stiff suit. It’s what the press has come to expect from leading execs, but there are very few people in the world who can navigate Musk’s demands and keep the gravy train rolling. We put together a list of some of the ridiculous moments from the interview to understand just how deep the new CEO has to sink to justify the “X” rebrand.
You’ll Eventually Be Able to Video Chat on Twitter
Yaccarino told Eisen that there’s a few new features coming to the X-rebranded Twitter. One is video chat calls, which she said is better than using your phone since you don’t need to “give your phone number to anyone on the platform.”
Musk already claimed that Twitter would eventually let users make audio and video calls, but that was back in May and there’s been no word since. Yaccarino was copying her boss near-verbatim as he also proclaimed how you won’t need to give anyone your phone number.
You Will Be Able to Send People Money on Twitter
Musk has not be able to get over his ouster from PayPal all those decades ago, and his dream since then has been to make a payments platform a central feature of his “everything app.”
“Payments—there’s been a lot of talk about that,” Yaccarino said. “Payments between you and a friend, between you and one of your creators.”
So Twitter could become Venmo as well as a microblogging site, if users actually want to trust Musk with their bank account info. That’s a big stretch, but the rebranded Twitter wants to become a major money app. The platform owner does want to add the ability to trade stocks on X, if he can find somebody to build it for him for free.
Twitter CEO Said People are Making a ‘Living’ Posting on X
The CEO was quick to hit up just how much money the company has been throwing at creators for driving engagement on the platform. Yaccarino held up all that’s changed since Musk acquired the platform, including the “evolution into long-form video and articles, subscribe to your favourite creators, who are now earning a real living on the platform.”
A fair number of people have made money from Twitter, though many of those big payouts have gone to people on the far right including alleged human trafficker Andrew Tate. Other payments have gone to accounts that simply repost other people’s memes.
The payouts themselves ranged from tens of thousands of dollars to just a few hundred, which is not bad for simply posting regularly, but most are not earning anywhere near a living on the platform. Payments have also been delayed past Twitter’s own July 31 deadline.
Yaccarino is All-in on the ‘Everything App’ Concept
Twitter’s CEO reiterated again and again how transformative changing the branding on Twitter would be, calling it a “liberation.”
“The rebrand represented a liberation from Twitter,” Yaccarino said. “A liberation that allowed us to evolve past a legacy mindset and thinking, and reimagine how everyone on Spaces who’s listening, everybody who’s watching around the world. It’s going to change how we congregate, how we entertain, how we transact all in one platform.”
Musk wants to change Twitter into an everything app akin to platforms like WeChat in China. Of course, you first have to ignore the role the Chinese government has in monitoring and policing that app. Musk has also previously described his dream app as a “blockchain social media system that does both payments and short messages/links like Twitter.” Nowhere has Musk or Yaccarino since held up the ideals of a blockchain system, but it’s unlike Musk to really leave something like that behind.
Yaccarino Said the ‘Infrastructure Improvements’ Have Gone Rather Well
Eisen asked Yaccarino why Twitter should go ahead and change its name considering it being such a “strong brand” adding “some people say it’s like [Johnson & Johnson] changing Band-Aid.”
The Twitter CEO said that if you stay the same, then change is only “incremental.” She then added “If you think about the velocity of product changes, infrastructure improvements that have happened over the last 10 months, it kind of answers the question of why rebrand.”
For regular Twitter users, the site has become mired in outages and features breaking down. Most recently, the site nuked its own TweetDeck feature after installing rate limits for viewing posts. Users have started to feel like every time Twitter adds a new feature or tries to fix an issue, it ends up breaking something else.
The CEO Said 75% of Twitter Users Feel ‘Great’ About the Name Change
Despite the name change having been met with scepticism or outright scorn from the business community, Yaccarino said most users aren’t just happy about the name change, they’re excited about the rebrand.
“It’s only been three weeks… three out of four in our user community feel good, a lot of them feel great about the rebrand. They live with us, it’s habitual, they know what we’re about, they know where we’re going.”
The Roles Between Owner and CEO are ‘Very Clear,’ According to Yaccarino
Ever since the infamous poll where users wanted Musk to step down as Twitter chief, Elon has kept being Elon. That hasn’t changed with Yaccarino in the CEO chair, and she told Eisen that was the point.
“Elon is working on accelerating the rebrand and working on the future.” In that way Yaccarino is “responsible for the rest. Running the company, from partnerships to legal to sales to finance.”
She further declared she has full autonomy in that role.
“Our roles are very clear… While our lanes are really clear and defined, we are brought together by the belief in what we’re trying to achieve.”
Don’t Worry About the Hate Speech, Yaccarino Said
The Twitter CEO claimed that the company’s trust and safety team, which has experienced leadership losses and drastic staff cuts since Musk took over, is “healthier” than before Musk’s fight to bring the company private. More simply, she claimed “you might not agree” with all those posts, but that doesn’t mean their any worse.
That’s not what groups like the Center for Countering Digital Hate have said. Research shows the platform has experienced a rise in the number of uses of profane and racist language since Musk took over. That hasn’t been helped by Musk himself and his constant winks and dog whistles to the internet’s far right on his platform.
The Company Has Settled at 1,500 Employees, Down From 8,000
Yaccarino told CNBC the company now only had 1,500 employees. Once 8,000-strong worldwide, Twitter had conducted a “very necessary cost discipline exercise” when Musk arrived, Yaccarino said.
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