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Musk names NBC advertising executive Linda Yaccarino as new Twitter CEO

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Here are some of the things that have happened at Twitter since Elon Musk took over last fall. Advertisers have fled. Hate speech has soared. More than 80% of employees have been laid off or left. Now Mr. Musk says he's turning a page and handing the reins over to a new CEO. Does this mean Twitter will change? NPR tech correspondent Dara Kerr joins us. Dara, thanks so much for being with us.

DARA KERR, BYLINE: Of course. Hello.

SIMON: Mr. Musk announced yesterday he's hired an ad exec from NBCUniversal and says she will focus on business operations. What do we know about her?

KERR: Yeah, so her name is Linda Yaccarino, and she's had a long and conventional career in advertising from Turner Broadcasting to NBCUniversal. And at NBC, she rose to be the head of all global advertising. She's known for her savvy and behind-the-scenes power brokering. And by choosing Yaccarino, Musk is signaling that he's looking to placate Twitter's advertisers. They've fled the sites over the past few months. And Yaccarino also appears to be a Musk superfan. I took a look through her Twitter profile and saw that she often likes his tweets and mentions him in posts. Last month, she interviewed Musk onstage at an advertising event in Miami. And during that interview, you can hear some of her praise.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LINDA YACCARINO: It's widely known that in the morning, you run SpaceX.

ELON MUSK: Oh.

YACCARINO: In the afternoon, you head to Tesla. And in the evening, it's Twitter time. And many of you in this room know me, and, you know, I pride myself on my work ethic. But, buddy, I met my match.

SIMON: So, Dara, can we anticipate that Elon Musk will be less active on Twitter?

KERR: Not necessarily. He said he's staying on as executive chairman and chief technology officer. He'll still oversee product and software, which is the major part of Twitter's business. He'll also still be the sole owner of the company. I asked Jo-Ellen Pozner, an associate professor of management at Santa Clara University, how much of a change there could be at Twitter with Yaccarino coming on board.

JO-ELLEN POZNER: I always feel that with Elon Musk, he's so unpredictable that it's really impossible to predict how things are going to play out.

KERR: She said rebuilding relationships with advertisers might not be enough. Instead, Twitter needs to solve the problem that drove away the advertisers in the first place.

SIMON: And what is that problem? Why have advertisers left?

KERR: So since Musk took over, he said his No. 1 focus is, quote, "free speech." So in his view, that's basically letting anyone say whatever they want on the platform whether it be white supremacists posting hate speech or Russian leaders calling to exterminate Ukraine. And things don't seem to be changing. Just this last week, there were several news reports about gory videos surging on the site - videos that showed mistreatment of animals and the mass shooting in Texas last weekend. And advertisers don't want to be associated with that. It's unclear if those types of posts will go away with Yaccarino coming on board.

SIMON: NPR's Dara Kerr, thanks so much for being with us.

KERR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Dara Kerr
Dara Kerr is a tech reporter for NPR. She examines the choices tech companies make and the influence they wield over our lives and society.