It’s hard to know what to think, but Elon Musk is wooing progressives he has been fighting for several months.
The billionaire entrepreneur set himself up as a champion of the conservatives after his acquisition of Twitter last October for $44 billion. Once in control, he imposed a new content management policy: laissez faire. Basically, users of the platform can post anything they want as long as they don’t violate the law of the country they are in.
This policy marked a major break with Twitter 1.0, which had put in place safeguards against misinformation, alternative facts and hate speech of all kinds. This policy had led to the suspension on the platform of many accounts of right wing activists but also leftists.
Musk fired most of the employees who were in charge of making sure the platform didn’t become a “hellscape” so as not to scare away advertisers. Prior to Musk’s arrival, 91% of the site’s revenue was generated by ads. Twitter 2.0’s new lax approach has delighted extremists and conspiracy theorists alike. But on the other hand, it was a problem for advertisers who deserted the platform for fear of seeing their ads associated with racist, anti-Semitic tweets. For example. Musk himself last month compared billionaire George Soros to a villainous Jewish character from the X-Men saga.
Advertisers Are Staying Away
The financial impact has been enormous for Twitter. From September to October 2022, the top ten advertisers on twitter spent $71 million on ads, according to Sensor Tower. Between January and February their spending fell to $7.6 million, a drop of 89% according to the firm. Musk himself had indicated that advertising revenue was down 50% between October 2022 and March 2023.
The New York Times, citing an internal presentation, recently reported that between April 1 and the first week of May, advertising revenue plunged 59% to $88 million compared to the same period a year earlier.
On a Twitter Space audio event with presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr on June 4, the billionaire, who is also the CEO of EV maker Tesla (TSLA) – Get Free Report, said advertisers in Europe and North America put “extreme pressure” on the company, leading “half our advertising” to stay away.
“They are trying to drive Twitter bankrupt,” Musk said.
The billionaire has tried to anticipate the exodus of advertisers by revamping Blue, the microblogging site’s subscription service. He raised the price to $7.99 per month for individuals and $1,000 per month for organizations. To convince users to subscribe, it has integrated the famous account authentication checkmark which was free under Twitter 1.0. But the subscriptions reportedly didn’t jump.
The company’s valuation continues to fall. In March, the Techno king said that Twitter was now worth $20 billion, half the price he paid to acquire it. But a recent estimate from financial giant Fidelity, which owns a stake, pegged the market value at $14.41 billion.
Musk Offers Lemon and Maddow a Platform
Musk seems to want to stop the bleeding. He has just made an unexpected offer to media figures known to be progressives. They are former CNN anchor Don Lemon and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. The billionaire invited the two to produce shows on Twitter or to broadcast their shows on the platform.
“It’d be great to have @maddow, @donlemon & others on the left put their shows on this platform,” Musk posted on June 8.
He is even ready to roll out the red carpet for the two stars and support them.
“No exclusivity or legal docs required!”, the billionaire said. “You will receive our full support. The digital town square is for all.”
Musk’s tweet suggests that he seems to be admitting that his strategy of waging war on progressives, many of whom have left Twitter, hasn’t produced the expected results. On May 24, he politicized Twitter by introducing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to his nearly 143 million followers during a Twitter space audio event plagued by tech problems. DeSantis announced his presidential bid during the friendly conversation between the two men.
Musk seems now to be trying to rebalance things.
If Lemon or Maddow accept his offer it would be a big victory for the billionaire who could use it to appease some advertisers who are still reluctant to return to Twitter.
Lemon was fired from CNN on April 24, a move that came just over two months after he made sexist and ageist on-air comments about Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley.
In February, Lemon, who was co-host of CNN This Morning, said that the 51-year-old Haley wasn’t “in her prime” and suggested that a woman is “considered to be in her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.”
Lemon later apologized.
CNN did not provide a reason for Lemon’s departure but said in a tweet: “Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years. We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors.”
The journalist who has tweeted little since his ouster was present on the platform on June 8 but did not respond to Musk’s offer. He posted a message about the latest indictment of former president Donald Trump.
Maddow, anchor star of the liberal news channel MSNBC, was also present on Twitter on June 8 and did not allude to the billionaire’s offer.
Musk can meanwhile rejoice that Tucker Carlson, the ex-Fox News star fired on April 24, posted his first show on Twitter this week, although Fox has accused Carlson of breach of contract for appearing on another platform.