Who is Linda Yaccarino? Twitter’s new CEO answers questions on Elon Musk

 (ES Composite)
(ES Composite)

Linda Yaccarinno is making her mark as Twitter/X’s new chief executive officer with an outspoken appearance at the company’s Code conference.

Elon Musk appointed the former NBC Universal advertising boss at Twitter in June, and Vox has reported that Ms Yaccarino defended her new employer to the hilt at the event.

In a Q&A at Code, she said Musk has made the platform a more ambitious venture than “any other company likely on earth”. She also said the social media platform - which Mr Musk has since rebranded as X - now has 540 million users, almost double the cited figure from last November.

“When you look at the length of time spent, engagement on X, the key metrics are trending very, very positively,” she said.

She added that she and Mr Musk now “talk about everything,” from freedom of speech issues to making Twitter a pay platform. “When you get inspired and pushed by Elon Musk, you do the things that you’d think were never normally possible,” she said. “I’ve been there 12 weeks. I am still somewhat in awe of his availability to me.”

After appointing Ms Yaccarinno, Mr Musk has said he has transitioned to executive chairman and chief technology officer focused on “monitoring the product”.

During his short time at the reins, Mr Musk gutted Twitter’s workforce, fired its executive team, and dissolved the board of directors. Significantly for users, he has also taken a more lax approach to content moderation, restoring banned accounts.

The changes have inevitably proven divisive, garnering applause from free-speech advocates, while spooking advertisers who don’t want their ads to appear next to hate speech or misinformation. Precipitating a drop in ad sales, Mr Musk has tried to shift Twitter toward subscriptions by charging for features that were previously free, like verification.

Linda Yaccarino and Elon Musk at a previous event (AP)
Linda Yaccarino and Elon Musk at a previous event (AP)

Who is Linda Yaccarino?

Linda Yaccarino is a seasoned digital advertising executive. The 59-year-old media industry veteran has exalted Mr Musk’s takeover of Twitter, claiming that you should never bet against a pioneer in electric cars and space travel.

Ms Yaccarino is the chairwoman of Global Advertising and Partnerships at US media giant NBCUniversal. She is one of the most powerful women in the media industry, and has been at the forefront of TV and digital advertising for more than a decade. Her name often comes up when a media conglomerate is on the hunt for a new CEO.

At NBC Universal, she has held a variety of leadership roles, and is currently responsible for overseeing all of its advertising sales, including linear TV, digital, and streaming.

Ms Yaccarino is viewed as a powerhouse in digital advertising, helping to generate more than $100 billion (£79 bn) in ad sales during her 12 years at NBCUniversal. During that time, she’s had a close relationship with Twitter, and the news publishers that provide the content that keeps users glued to the platform.

More recently, Ms Yaccarino has praised Mr Musk amid the cacophony of criticism over his handling of Twitter. Ms Yaccarino interviewed Musk onstage at a media conference, where they discussed what the future held for marketers on the social media platform.

In 2021, she said that she was “excited” about Mr Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. She also said that she believed Mr Musk could “make Twitter a better place”.

Even as Mr Musk was spooking advertisers with his comments about transforming Twitter into a haven for free-speech absolutists, Ms Yaccarino was still in his corner. Two weeks after Mr Musk’s takeover, Ms Yaccarino said she had been in touch with Twitter leadership. She also declared that, “Twitter is the single, No 1 biggest” partner for content distribution for NBCUniversal.

NBCU has significant partnerships with Twitter: the broadcaster recently renewed its deal to host content from the 2024 Olympics on the platform. Ms Yaccarino also recently tweeted that Mr Musk should bring back Twitter’s live video feature, Periscope, calling it “an idea for our new partnership”.

What’s more, on her first day in the new role, Ms Yaccarino has recruited Joe Benarroch, previously an executive vice president with her at NBCU and former chairman of Global Advertising and Partnerships at the company.