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Elon Musk names Linda Yaccarino as Twitter CEO

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Twitter is about to get a new boss. Its owner, Elon Musk, has announced that Linda Yaccarino will be taking the reins as CEO. She's the former head of advertising at NBCUniversal.

NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn joins us now to talk about what this transition means for Twitter, which has been going through one of its most chaotic periods ever. Hey, Bobby.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK. So tell us more about who Linda Yaccarino is.

ALLYN: Sure. She's a longtime advertising executive who has been warming up to Musk in recent months. In April, she interviewed Musk at a conference in Miami Beach, where she heaped praise on him about some of his changes at Twitter. For the past 11 years, though, she's been at NBCUniversal, as you mentioned, in charge of the company's advertising business, which makes her something of a natural fit to lead Twitter because, at the end of the day, Twitter is an advertising company, right? About 90% of the company's revenue comes from advertising. And, yeah, Yaccarino has deep connections to marketers and advertising agencies, so, you know, Musk is hoping she can tap into that network to help revive the platform.

CHANG: Well, I imagine that reviving the platform would mean mending fences with advertisers, right?

ALLYN: Yeah, and there is a lot of work to do there. I mean, compared to other social media platforms, Twitter has never really had, like, an amazing advertising business. But even still, it's really suffered under Musk. Many advertisers have paused spending on Twitter or have left completely. To advertisers, you know, who care a lot about what kind of associations brands are making, a chaotic social media site that increasingly looks like it's out of control is not exactly a safe place to spend money.

CHANG: Yeah.

ALLYN: The Wall Street Journal reported that Twitter's advertising revenue dropped 40% under Musk, so this will be one of Yaccarino's No. 1 tasks - right? - to try to soothe these skittish advertisers.

CHANG: OK, so tell us more about that - like, why advertisers have been so concerned about Twitter under Musk.

ALLYN: Yeah. Well, researchers have noticed an uptick in extreme, hateful, violent content on Twitter since Musk took over. There are far fewer controls. And look, that's because 90% of Twitter's staff is gone - either fired or quit, right? Musk has rolled out a dizzying number of changes, including stripping users of their so-called blue-check verification badges and instead letting just about anyone buy one if they're willing. You know, he's welcomed back loads of previously banned users under the banner of free speech, you know, while also suspending the accounts of journalists. And to advertisers, this is just a chaotic situation. It's just an unpredictable environment.

CHANG: Well, let me ask you, Bobby. I mean, we started this conversation by saying that Twitter has a new boss, but can we just be real here? Do you think Elon Musk will actually let anyone else other than him be the boss of Twitter?

ALLYN: That is the question. Look, Yaccarino is a pretty traditional business executive who has worked in traditional corporate settings, and Musk is absolutely the opposite of that, right? We all know he loves bucking norms. He's something of a rogue leader. So it will be interesting to see whether that presents something of a culture clash between the two. But remember, Musk is still the owner of Twitter - paid $44 billion for the company. And if Yaccarino wants to do something and Musk doesn't like it, he can just overrule her. And since Musk took Twitter private, there is no longer an independent board of directors that could even question Musk's decisions. He can fire and hire CEOs as he wishes. And in the past, Musk hasn't had a hard time firing once-loyal executives who he ends up disagreeing with.

CHANG: Yeah.

ALLYN: As one friend of Yaccarino told The New York Times, she's about to step into the lion's mouth.

CHANG: Whoa. That is NPR's Bobby Allyn. Thank you, Bobby.

ALLYN: Thanks, Ailsa.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.