Elon Musk Says Twitter Stabilizing But Would Have Been Toast Without Him; Thanks Disney, Apple For Advertising
Elon Musk prodded advertisers “to use Twitter yourselves, and believe what you see on Twitter, not what you read in the newspapers.”
“There’s something about journalists. They have been trained never to write a positive story,” the Twitter, Tesla and SpaceX CEO said at a Morgan Stanley media conference Tuesday. An uptick in hate speech after he took Twitter private last fall spooked some advertisers but others never left, he said, expressing gratitude to Disney and Apple for being long-term partners. “Thank you,” he said.
“Disney is a major advertiser on Twitter, one of our biggest advertisers. Apple is one of our biggest advertisers. Disney, of course, does not want to have its ads next to things that are not appropriate for a family audience,” Musk said. “But there are [other] products that are more R-rated. Advertisers can actually adjust [ads to] what content they are comfortable having. The same is true on TV. The advertising you’re seeing at 7 p.m. is not the same you’re seeing at midnight. It’s up to the advertiser where they want to put their content.”
Warner Bros Discovery is also aboard as Musk noted a campaign for HBO’s The White Lotus. “I was talking to [WBD CEO] David Zaslav, he’s great, and he said, ‘Why can’t we put a White Lotus trailer every time someone mentions White Lotus on Twitter?’ And I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ One of the super obvious but profound things we are doing is keyword advertising…You don’t need advanced AI for this one.”
“The most important thing is that the advertising is effective, that it is relevant and that it moves the needle for a company.”
Usage and engagement on Twitter have never been stronger, Musk said. Monetizing the platform’s large, global, educated and affluent user base remains the key challenge. The broader media sector happens to be in an ad slump triggered by recession fears. But even so, he said the former regime left lots of money on the table, and also had unsustainable cost base.
He said when the deal closed October 29, Twitter was tracking “at a negative $3 billion a year run rate, and had #1 billion in the bank. So that’s a pretty dire situation.” Costs were skyrocketing and the company “would have gone bankrupt in four months.” He insists the highly public, deep rounds of layoffs and restructuring have cut the (non-interest) burn rate to about $1.5 billion and that Twitter has a shot at being cash-flow positive next quarter, depending on the ad market. “It’s been a very difficult four months, but I am very optimistic about the future,” he said.
He also returned to why he bought the company – “Not because it would be some lucrative gold mine. In fact, it has been arduous and difficult and I’m getting dumped on every day.”
It was for “free speech” and “the future of our civilization…That’s why I did it.” (He did not mention that he’d tried to back out of the deal rather quickly after he made it.) He said the old Twitter “had a huge thumb on the scale in favor of the left. But that is not conducive to a healthy national dialogue. It is a good thing if you are seeing people you don’t like saying things you don’t like, provided you can say your piece too.”
Separately today, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Federal Trade Commission has asked Twitter to turn over internal communications related to Musk and detailed information about the layoffs amid concerns that staff reductions could compromise the company’s ability to protect users. The FTC inquiry centers around the ability of the company to comply with a $150 million settlement related to alleged privacy violations.