Morgan Stanley conference: Musk thinks he can fix Twitter’s ad business after derailing it


Elon Musk on Tuesday gave an optimistic view of how Twitter can improve the ad business he helped derail and improve bottom line, while also admitting that keeping the social network afloat is proving challenging after multiple rounds of layoffs.

In remarks at a Morgan Stanley conference, Musk laid out his vision to boost Twitter’s core advertising business by adopting the standard strategy of most of the company’s peers: improving the relevance of its ads.

“Ad relevancy is the most gargantuan,” Musk said. “And this is going to sound totally bizarre, but Twitter didn’t consider relevance in ads until three months ago.”

With that change and greater cost cutting across the organization, Musk said he believes Twitter “has an opportunity to be cash flow positive next quarter.”

“Going forward, Twitter will have highly relevant, helpful ads,” Musk said. “And because it’s useful, because it’s relevant, there will be a huge increase in sales because it’s useful now. So I am very optimistic about the future. It has been a very difficult four months, but I am optimistic about the future.”

Since acquiring the platform at the end of October, Twitter has experienced a mass exodus of top brands as Musk relaxed some content moderation policies, reinstated inflammatory accounts and made a number of whimsical remarks about politics and world affairs. Musk, who previously tweeted about his hatred of advertising, made a quick bet to bolster a paid subscription offering instead, but reportedly struggled to gain traction.

He also took the time to thank advertisers who have stayed with Twitter throughout its rocky takeover, including Disney and Apple.

But even with Musk looking to grow Twitter’s advertising business, which has long made up nearly all of the company’s revenue, there are genuine doubts that the platform can even stay online.

Twitter has been awash with outages, including a significant outage on Monday, and other user headaches since Musk took over, likely related to the multiple rounds of mass layoffs that occurred under his watch. On Tuesday, he blamed “overly complex” underlying technology for some of the recent service outages.

“The code base is like a Rube Goldberg machine, and if you zoom in on part of the Rube Goldberg machine, there’s another Rube Goldberg machine, and then there’s another,” Musk said at the event Tuesday. “So it’s quite hard to keep this thing running, and then also hard to move the product forward because it’s really too complex, to say the least.”

“We’ll make a change, which appears to be a small change somewhere, which then creates a huge disruption,” he said. Musk said Monday’s outage was due to “what should have been a minor change in 1% of the Twitter user base.” [that] ended up being a catastrophic change for 100% of the Twitter user base.

At the same time, Musk continues to make controversial comments that could make brands hesitant to return to or increase their spending on the platform. Musk was criticized by some this week after he publicly mocked a Twitter employee with a disability who asked the Twitter owner if he had been fired.

At Tuesday’s event, Musk went on a series of unrelated tangents, including repeatedly targeting longtime media organizations. “What I would say to advertisers and brands is, you know, use Twitter yourself and believe what you see on Twitter, not what you read in the papers,” Musk said. “Because what you see on Twitter is real, and what you read in newspapers is not.”


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