Linda Yaccarino Was Set Up to Fail

Vox Media held its Code Conference this week in Laguna Niguel. It was the first iteration of the conference in which hosting duties would not be handled by Kara Swisher, who was only listed as a speaker. It seems that Swisher was supposed to interview General Motors CEO Mary Barra, but Barra could no longer participate for some reason, and so Swisher instead interviewed Yoel Roth.

About an hour after Swisher and Roth finished their surprise session came the highlight of the event, if you can call it that: an interview with Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino — who reflexively insists on calling it “X” for some reason — in which she was both evasive and unprepared for the kinds of questions you might expect she would be asked.

Alex Heath, the Verge (non-paywalled link):

Throughout the conversation, she repeatedly dodged specific questions about the state of X’s business, at times revealing that she may not actually know the answers. X now has “something like” 200 to 250 million daily active users, she said at one point. She clearly didn’t know the status of Musk’s plan to enforce a stricter paywall and said it’s looking like X will turn a profit sometime early next year.

Yaccarino sounded confused and surprised to be asked about the paywall idea, which was announced over a week ago. In fairness to Yaccarino, it can be hard to keep up with news, which is why it is so useful to have an app on your iPhone’s first home screen that allows you to keep your finger on the pulse.

Peter Kafka, at Vox (hey, it is a Vox event, so I might as well quote liberally from the company’s writers):

On the health of Twitter’s platform under Musk: She repeated earlier claims that the company now has more than 540 million users — more than double than the user base Musk cited last November. “When you look at the length of time spent, engagement on X, the key metrics are trending very, very positively,” she said.

Kafka cites a Reuters article to bolster the “more than double” claim, but it does not provide evidence of that. Reuters, in July, repeats Musk’s claim of 540 million monthly users, but it is comparing that to the 229 million monthly active users in the pre-Musk era of Twitter. Those metrics — much like view counts — are not interchangeable.

Mike Masnick, Techdirt:

But… we’re not done yet. Because the other data point Musk revealed: “100 million to 200 million posts per day” also tells us something.

That is… below what Twitter used to have. Way below. A study in 2019, that had tracked tweets per day from 2012 through 2019 showed that in 2019 tweets per day were between 320 and 340 million per day. Or… somewhere around twice what Musk is claiming today.

It is Yaccarino’s job to make Twitter more palatable — especially on a public stage — and to act as a sort of buffer for its owner’s whims. It is Kafka’s job — and the job of media personalities — to avoid simply repeating what was said without giving it adequate context.