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Elon Musk wants to hold Twitter Spaces with advertisers


Elon Musk is meeting with some of Twitter’s biggest advertisers and marketing partners on Wednesday as the billionaire looks to keep the organizations that provide his new company with most of its revenue from leaving the platform.

The move comes days after Musk — who bought Twitter in a $44 billion deal last month — threatened a “thermonuclear name and shame” campaign against advertisers who leave the site over concerns about his approach to content moderation.

At a Twitter investor conference in New York on Nov. 4, Elon Musk said the push against advertisers by unnamed activists was “an attack on the First Amendment.” (Video: Reuters)

Musk will speak to a researched group of advertisers on “Twitter Spaces,” a live audio conversation feature on the platform. WPP, one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world, is among those taking part, according to a person familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Elon Musk vindicates Twitter advertisers as he seeks new revenue streams

Topics of the discussion are unclear, but last week Musk said that Twitter was facing a “massive decline in income” as advertisers stopped campaigns on the platform. A group of major advertisers and marketing agencies have said they will slow or stop spending on the site while they evaluate how Musk runs it.

The day before closing the deal, Musk tweeted a statement pledging to prevent the site from becoming a “free for all hellscape.” But soon after, he himself boosted a conspiracy theory about the attack on Representative Nancy Pelosi’s husband, shaking advertisers’ faith that he would uphold rules against misinformation and hate speech.

Musk has struggled to shore up the company’s revenue streams, cut costs by laying off people and finding new ways to make money, while facing the reality of paying about $1 billion a year in interest on the debt he incurred by buying Twitter . The vast majority of Twitter’s revenue comes from advertising. A potential recession and rising inflation have already cut deeply into ad budgets, making it a particularly difficult time for the entire digital advertising industry.

At the same time, advertisers are hypersensitive to what kind of content their ads can appear next to. Musk has repeatedly said he wants to maintain standards for content moderation, but by cutting half of the company’s staff, activist groups and advertisers have become doubtful that the company will be able to maintain its standards for keeping hate speech and violent and sexual content out of people’s feeds.

Elon Musk deleted a tweet about Paul Pelosi. Here’s why it’s important.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson urged businesses to drop their ads on Twitter “until action is taken to make Twitter a safe place.” Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolute,” accused companies participating in the boycott of “trying to destroy free speech in America.”

Automakers Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen have all pulled their Twitter ads, along with cereal and snack companies General Mills and Mondelez, the company behind Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers and Sour Patch Kids candies. International advertising and consulting firm Interpublic Group, which represents American Express, Coca-Cola, Fitbit, Spotify and dozens of other major companies, has also advised its clients to suspend Twitter ad purchases until further notice.

“A thermonuclear name and shame is exactly what will happen if this continues,” Musk tweeted Friday as more companies began their advertising exits, threatening to unleash his online fandom on businesses and executives leaving the platform.

In his short tenure, Musk has laid off roughly half of Twitter’s workforce, decimating its content moderation and engineering teams days before Tuesday’s midterm elections. As the company’s remaining employees struggled to keep up with complex infrastructure challenges, the company moved to rehire some of the displaced employees.

Elon Musk’s Twitter is working on paid video feature with “high” risk

Musk plans to sell Twitter’s blue verification badge for $8 per month, he said, but without actually verifying users’ identities. Critics are concerned that the change will wreak havoc on a platform already struggling with the spread of disinformation, bots and scammers.

The company said it would instead give officially verified accounts a new badge to show they are verified to be who they say they are. It began rolling out to government officials, celebrities, news organizations and companies on Wednesday, but then some people lost the new badges. Musk soon tweeted that he had “killed it” and a Twitter boss clarified later that the company focused on using them for “government and commercial entities” rather than individuals.

Since taking over, Musk has mocked politicians – including rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) — on the platform, made jokes about masturbation, spread misinformation about the attack on the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and imposed draconian restrictions on parody accounts.

These and other of Musk’s moves have alarmed advertisers.

“Advertisers are not manipulated by activist groups, they are constrained by established principles around the types of companies they can do business with. These principles include an assessment of the platform’s commitment to brand safety and suitability,” Lou Paskalis, the president of a major marketing firm, MMA Global, tweeted Musk.

Musk blocked Paskalis — then unblocked him — after the switch.

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