Better late than never

Musk may not think much about the CEO position, but his exit is great news for Twitter.

twitter, elon musk
With a large annual interest obligation following the acquisition, Twitter badly needs to make money. (IE)

Elon Musk has probably taken the only sensible decision in his short tenure as Twitter’s chief executive officer. Though the announcement of a new CEO is a huge relief to the microblogging platform and its employees, it may not mean much to Musk for two reasons. One, he stays on as executive chairman and his shadow would hover over his successor. And two, Musk has made it very clear that he doesn’t think much of the CEO position. He had said earlier that he would quit the day he found someone “foolish enough” to succeed him. That’s not all. Soon after acquiring Twitter in a $44 billion deal, he had announced he had found a CEO for Twitter—not a human but his pet dog Floki, who he said makes a better CEO than the “other guy” (Parag Agarwal). The tweet was accompanied by a picture of Floki sitting on the CEO’s chair.

His opinion of the CEO position notwithstanding, the fact is that the social media platform had been bleeding workers, users and advertisers under the mercurial entrepreneur. Within days of the acquisition, the Twitter workforce was cut quite brutally, with even some top executives being sacked via mail. Other employees found they had been fired when they were unable to access key work resources, including their company accounts. In April this year, Musk confirmed in an interview to BBC on Twitter Spaces that of the 8,000 strong workforce the company had before his takeover, there were just 1,500 left. He also drew a fair bit of criticism when he seemingly mocked a disabled employee who had reached out to him after being fired.

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With a large annual interest obligation following the acquisition, Twitter badly needs to make money. But Musk’s record there doesn’t seem encouraging. While Musk-owned Twitter did make its coveted ‘blue-tick’ verification a paid service, user engagement doesn’t seem to be what it used to be. The Twitter-Tesla-SpaceX chief maintains Twitter’s usage is at an all-time high, but Vox reports, based on data from web-analytics company Similarweb, that traffic showed a 7.7% decline and average daily active users on Twitter’s Android app had dropped by 9.8% in March year-on-year.

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Meanwhile, some of the Musk-induced changes in policy are sure to further dampen the site’s user metrics—from the decision to purge inactive users after revising the definition of inactive from failing to log in over a period of six months to failing to log in for a period of 30 days, to the tagging of news media accounts as “state-affiliated media”, a by-word for propaganda outlets. Advertisers have walked away from the platform—as per one report, more than half the 1,000 advertisers on the platform before Musk’s acquisition have stopped advertising as of February and only 6 of its top 10 advertisers are continuing with it. This hits the bottom line, with revenue having fallen by 40% y-o-y in December 2022, as per a report by the Wall Street Journal. Indeed, Insider Intelligence has cut its worldwide ad revenue for Twitter in 2023 to $2.98 billion $4.74 billion. No wonder Musk values the company at less than half of what he paid for it. To that end, a new CEO is what the doctor ordered. Musk’s choice, Linda Yaccarino—chair, global advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal Media, is a good choice.

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First published on: 13-05-2023 at 04:00 IST