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Linda Yaccarino: Unveiling Twitter's 'Superwoman'

Linda Yaccarino: Unveiling Twitter's 'Superwoman'

Linda Yaccarino

Why would anybody choose to quit a cushy role at one of America's top media firms to take a risk managing Twitter, a social media site with a questionable business record and an infamously temperamental owner?

Here comes Linda Yaccarino, a 60-year-old globally famous advertising professional from New York, who not only accepted the role but also began it a few weeks early.

Lou Paskalis, a marketing guru who has known Ms. Yaccarino for more than 20 years, describes her as someone who "really likes to be superwoman" and describes her as feisty, cunning, and ambitious. She would jump at the chance, he adds, "to step in... and say, 'I can fix this'".

Which begs the question: can she?

Twitter has issues even before billionaire Elon Musk seized control of it last year.

It has drawn scathing criticism for how it addresses hate speech and disinformation from both the left and the right, and the business has failed to break even, generating a profit just twice since its founding in 2006.

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Growth has been uneven, whether evaluated by the number of users or the revenue it generates.

The problems have only gotten worse since Last year, Mr. Musk took over management of the platform.

He modified how the firm checks genuine accounts, eliminated 75% of its previous employees, including teams responsible for tracking abuse, and generated controversy with his own tweets that promoted conspiracies.

Users also appear unconvinced, and many marketers have left. According to a recent Pew study, the majority of US people, who make up Twitter's user base, were taking a break, and a quarter stated they did not plan to use the app in a year.

Even Elon Musk seems intimidated by the difficulties, completing his $44 billion acquisition only under threat of legal action last year. Only the "foolish" would want to be his chief executive, he has jokingly claimed.

Ms. Yaccarino seems unafraid.

The Italian-American-raised daughter of a police officer has advanced through the ranks of some of the country's top media businesses and earned a degree in journalism reputation as a well-heeled CEO who has helped lead entertainment behemoth NBCUniversal through the instability caused by the rise of the internet titans.

At NBCU, the parent company of organizations including NBC News, Focus Features, and Bravo, Ms. Yaccarino completely reorganized the advertising sales division. She also promoted debates about data gaps as consumers switched online and pushed for the company's ad-supported streaming platform Peacock to begin in 2020.

The mother-of-two, who met on a blind date with her husband Claude Madrazo and gave birth to a grandchild last year, was said to be searching for a promotion after 10 years at NBCU where she served as chairperson of global partnerships and advertising.

Her interest in Twitter was widely rumored, especially when she supported Elon Musk at a convention last year, pleading with skeptic marketers to "give the guy a minute."

After learning of her new position, she tweeted, "I've always been impressed by your goal to create a brighter future. I'm eager to work with Twitter to transform this company and bring about this vision.

According to Mr. Paskalis, CEO of AJL Advisory, Mr. Musk "purchased trust" from marketers by recruiting Ms. Yaccarino.

In fact, business behemoth GroupM, which represents companies like Coca-Cola and Nestle, has already stated that it considers the platform to be less dangerous.

However, it won't be easy to get Twitter's company back on track.

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The platform is still too small to be a must-buy, claims longtime media analyst Brian Wieser, now principal at consultancy Madison and Wall, even though major ad buyers are eager to have options beyond the tech behemoths.

She will have to deal with a number of urgent issues in addition to advertising, including regulatory scrutiny of Twitter's hate speech and privacy controls, lawsuits from landlords, vendors, and former employees over unpaid bills, user complaints, and basic technical issues, such as the issues that plagued the prominent interview with Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis that was hosted on the platform.

Of course, Mr. Musk remains the greatest unknown, having declared his intention to stay on site and continue supervising technology and goods.

She is not the only one who has been set up to fail, according to Mr. Wieser. If she has a higher probability of winning than any other scenario, it's unknown. And indeed, the likelihood has improved.

Friends and former coworkers say they anticipate Ms. Yaccarino will leverage her experience in television to strengthen the platform's ad revenue and increase the usage of video throughout the whole website.

She has termed Mr Musk's idea of Twitter as a starting point for a "the everything app", including messages, payments and other features a "great opportunity" for advertising.

"[She has] the guts and the courage to take big swings," claims Jacqueline Corbelli, founder and CEO of Brightline, a digital company that specialized in streaming commercials and has worked with NBCU.

She will have the capacity to combine what has worked in the past and combine it with what marketers will be looking for to restore faith in Twitter, if Twitter allows her the room to do it.

It's still a huge if whether Ms. Yaccarino will have leeway to maneuver.

She may soon run against the phenomenon known as the "glass cliff," which occurs when women only rise to positions of authority at the most dangerous times, according to some experts.

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Recently, Ms. Yaccarino responded to such analysis on Twitter with, "Let's be clear: I don't teeter. I'm used to wearing 4 inch heels."

Ms. Yaccarino urged Mr. Musk to clarify what Twitter's "freedom of speech, not freedom of reach" meant and how it differentiated from policies at other businesses during an industry conference before to her employment. Her beliefs have been described as conservative but not dogmatic.

She also questioned Mr. Musk about reducing his own tweeting, but she received little firm commitment in return, at least publicly.

According to him, "I'll say what I want even if it costs me money," he previously told CNBC.

Friends claim that Ms. Yaccarino, who has said that she uses "patience and wine" to deal with challenging coworkers, is taking on her new position with a clear understanding of the risks.

"Linda is not afraid," says Shelley Zallis, chief executive of the Female Quotient, which works to develop women in the workplace, and whom Ms Yaccarino has hailed as a "soul sister".

"Linda is strong and brave, and Linda searches for the answer. She actually has the ability to bring the industry together and speed up development.

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