Just as it looked as if Elon Musk would have to spend the rest of the year running Twitter, the workaholic entrepreneur has found someone to replace him at the helm.
The news announced by Musk himself late on Thursday no doubt is balm to the souls of many Tesla investors, given fears he was spending too much time trying to keep his social media platform afloat to pay attention to the burgeoning issues at his carmaker.
According to several media reports, the job is going to Linda Yaccarino—who just quit NBCUniversal.
The chair of global advertising and partnerships at Comcast’s NBC Universal manages a staff of about 2,000 employees—larger than Twitter’s own workforce—where she oversees all advertising, partnerships, and marketing. She also is responsible for the monetization strategy behind the company’s ad-supported Peacock streaming service.
That makes her ideally placed to credibly coax advertisers back to the platform, a fact veteran tech reporter Kara Swisher pointed out when she predicted Yaccarino’s appointment over other candidates like Sheryl Sandberg and Susan Wojcicki.
Excited to announce that I’ve hired a new CEO for X/Twitter. She will be starting in ~6 weeks!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 11, 2023
My role will transition to being exec chair & CTO, overseeing product, software & sysops.
“Linda Yaccarino was early to tech focus for a media exec, which was unusual at the time and she was constantly trying to grok it, despite wariness,” Swisher posted on Thursday, citing her organization of a tech event all the way back in late 2014. “She’s obviously not a media luddite, as many were at the time.”
Yaccarino says she is ‘inspired by provocative leadership’
Given Musk’s past criticism that ex-CEO Parag Agrawal and many of his team barely used their own product, it might be somewhat surprising that Yaccarino isn’t a prolific Twitter user either.
But Musk himself is the exception: Few executives comment on Twitter, and when they do they often rely on executive communications assistants who ghostwrite their social media posts to ensure close alignment with their company’s key strategic messaging.
Only about 1,200 tweets are posted to Yaccarino’s timeline, retweets included, and she follows roughly the same number of accounts, including well-known conservative accounts like Libs of TikTok but Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Fortune as well.
Her profile describes her as “inspired by provocative leadership,” which certainly seems to be a good fit with Musk, known for his penchant for using Twitter to wind people up for fun.
When she tweets it is often related to fashion, women in tech, or sports such as the Kentucky Derby that was recently broadcast by her network (leaving out references to the seven horses euthanized that weekend).
By far her most popular tweet, however, was a link to a session with advertising execs she moderated in April, where Musk was invited to explain his Twitter 2.0 plans.
She’s interviewed Musk and knows all about the challenges he faces
In the 45-minute talk, she praised his vision for a social media platform that would create attractive communities for companies, where users can talk about the brands they love and buy their goods or services in one easy click.
Yet she also reminded Musk about the primacy of trust for the ad buyers in that room and their need not to fear products they placed featuring prominently next to examples of hate speech.
In this vein, the NBC Universal exec urged him to reinstate Twitter’s disbanded Trust & Safety Council as a recurring feedback loop for ad execs, to feel more comfortable buying virtual space on his platform.
We can all agree … this freedom of speech, deserves a bit more reach. Here’s my full chat with @elonmusk at @PossibleEvent. https://t.co/JwPzHOgi9s— Linda Yaccarino (@lindayacc) April 20, 2023
“The people in this room are your accelerated path to profitability,” she said, urging him to follow on his own advice and not post anything “after 3 a.m.”
Musk pushed back on any implicit suggestion he should bow to ad buyers that wanted him to tone down his more polarizing views. Instead, he argued that just because he is the company’s owner, he shouldn’t be held to any higher standard than the average Twitter user.
“I will aspire to tweet less after 3 a.m., but if I were to say ‘yes, you could influence me,’ that would be wrong. That would be very wrong, because that would be a diminishment of freedom of speech,” he shot back. “If that means losing advertising dollars, we lose it.”
Should Yaccarino take on the top Twitter job, it is clear she knows exactly what the challenges it faces, is well acquainted with the strengths and weaknesses of her future boss, and will be going into the assignment with eyes wide open.