New X chief Linda Yaccarino says the company is close to breaking even, while the re-brand to X has been popular among users, according to internal insights.
Yaccarino noted this in a new interview with CNBC, in which the recently anointed X chief was questioned about the automony of her role under X owner Elon Musk, her plans for revitalizing the platform’s ad business, and her further vision for the app.
And while a lot of Yaccarino’s statements were exactly what you would expect from somebody who’s trying to pitch the platform as a key consideration for advertisers, Yaccarino did make some interesting notes about their progress, and what may be coming next.
The main focus of the interview was on the re-brand and how that’s impacted the business.
Yaccarino seems confident in the new direction, explaining that X encompasses more opportunities than the previous moniker.
As per Yaccarino:
“The rebrand represented really a liberation from Twitter, a liberation that allowed us to evolve past a legacy mindset and thinking, and to reimagine how everyone, how everyone on Spaces who’s listening, everybody who’s watching around the world, [how] it’s going to change how we congregate, how we entertain, how we transact all in one platform.”
That’s pretty much in line with the bombastic description Yaccarino recently shared to X about the new vision for the app, which had many rolling their eyes at the corporate-speak.
X is the future state of unlimited interactivity – centered in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking – creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities. Powered by AI, X will connect us all in ways we’re just beginning to imagine.— Linda Yaccarino (@lindayaX) July 23, 2023
I mean, Yaccarino is the chief of the company, and an expert in media messaging, so this, really, is what you would expect. But there’s a distinct vagueness to these terms, which all sound good when spoken, but are fairly hollow in substance.
Still, Yaccarino was keen to highlight the evolution of the app, and the new opportunities:
“Experiences and evolution into long-form video and articles, subscribe to your favorite creators, who are now earning a real living on the platform. You look at video, and soon you’ll be able to make video chat calls without having to give your phone number to anyone on the platform.”
All of these, Yaccarino says, form the basis of what X is all about, in differentiation to Twitter, though most are pretty much in line with the previous Twitter experience, and were even enacted, in some form, under previous Twitter management.
So as yet, it’s not some huge change in direction. But it is early, especially for Yaccarino herself, who only took the job three months ago, after more than a decade working for NBCUniversal.
X has been particularly keen to tout the benefits of its platform as a creator monetization pathway, with its new ad revenue share offering seeing a range of top creators in the app earning big paychecks for their efforts.
That is a significant shift from the Twitter of the past, though the entry thresholds for the program are very high, so while it seems like a lot of users are posting their earnings, only a tiny fraction of X creators are actually getting paid as yet.
It also remains to be seen whether this is a sustainable system for the company, but right now, Yaccarino’s keen to highlight this as part of the broader X vision.
Yaccarino was also asked about the company’s ad business, and how brand partners have responded to the re-brand. Yaccarino said that three out of four X users feel positive about the new name, while more advertisers are now coming back, which reflects its evolving and improving vision over time.
According to Yaccarino, the platform is far safer than it was a year ago, with 99.99% of all Tweet impressions going to content that doesn’t violate the platform’s rules. The specifics are important to note here, as it’s virtually impossible that its detection rates are that high, but this stat, based on analysis by Sprinklr, is what X is going with as it seeks to win back advertiser trust.
Most advertisers are viewing such through narrowed eyes, but again, Yaccarino claims they are now resuming their spending, bringing the company close to ‘break even’.
That’s somewhat supported by third-party analysis, though many big-name brands are still holding off on resuming full X spending.
According to a new report by ad tech platform MediaRadar, over a third of big-name brands who’ve opted to cut their spend in the app since the Musk takeover are still holding off, including AT&T, Disney, and Coca-Cola. Some smaller brands are, however, coming back, which is likely where the platform’s seeing renewed growth.
That’s a positive sign, though it remains a concern that the big spenders are still hesitant, though Yaccarino will be hoping that new updates to ad placement controls and third-party verification will help to ease the mind of those ad execs who remain concerned about the platform’s “Freedom of Speech, Not Freedom of Reach” approach.
And Yaccarino added another catchphrase to the app’s new lexicon on this front:
“If it’s lawful but it's awful, it's extraordinarily difficult for you to see it.”
“Lawful but awful”. That could be X’s new tagline. It’s better than “Blaze Your Glory”.
Yaccarino also noted that X is looking to bring back its “client council” to provide input into key ad decisions, while it’s also looking to add more controls to help reassure brand partners, and win back more ad spend.
Excited to continue the momentum in our business and we are officially bringing back the Client Council in the fall. More soon! ????— Linda Yaccarino (@lindayaX) August 10, 2023
Again, it does seem that these approaches are working, at least to some degree, but the ongoing hesitancy, largely triggered by Musk’s own posts, remains a challenge for Yaccarino as she seeks to get the business back to growth.
But overall, the opportunity remains for X to become a bigger player in the social media landscape, if it can back up some of its hyperbolic claims, and become an all-encompassing media powerhouse, which also empowers creators, and incorporates social elements.
Really, this all comes down to Elon, and the fact that business leaders are hesitant to bet against him, given his past successes. For anybody else, the vague X plan would be laughable, but there is that inkling that, maybe, somehow, Elon will be able to pull it off.
Nobody knows how, and I’m not sure that Musk and Yaccarino do either. But the audience is listening, and waiting to see what comes next.