On Twitter, Elon Musk Details His Plans for Twitter’s Business – The New York Times

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Mr. Musk, the social media service’s new owner, has been looking for ways to generate more revenue at the company.
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SAN FRANCISCO — With little warning, in front of hordes of listeners, Elon Musk on Wednesday laid out his most comprehensive overview for Twitter’s business since he took control of the company less than two weeks ago.
In a gathering on Spaces, Twitter’s live audio feature, Mr. Musk spent an hour on Wednesday morning talking about his plans for the social media service, positioning it as a competitor to more than just classic social networks like Facebook.
The world’s richest man said Twitter would make money from content creators and delve deeper into video, business segments that TikTok has mastered. He discussed a vision for Twitter to process payments, complete with connected debit cards and bank accounts, which echoed PayPal, the digital payments company he helped found. Mr. Musk has said that he ultimately hopes to transform Twitter into an “everything app” modeled after WeChat, a Chinese social media platform that is used by more than a billion people to find news, hail cabs and order food.
The meeting was ostensibly organized for Twitter’s advertisers, with whom Mr. Musk has had a volatile relationship in his short time at the helm. He has swung from conciliatory meetings with Madison Avenue executives to threats to put them through a “thermonuclear name & shame” as some brands paused their spending on Twitter because of fears of how his ownership might change the platform’s content.
Mr. Musk promised advertisers that Twitter was still committed to them and their concerns about problematic content, which proliferated on the platform during the midterm elections on Tuesday. But his presentation ranged far beyond advertising, offering more details about his plans than the often-contradictory tidbits that had seeped out in recent days.
“The rate of evolution of Twitter will be an immense step change compared to what it has been in the past,” the 51-year-old said.“You know, if nothing else, I am a technologist and I can make technology go fast. And that’s what you’ll see happen at Twitter.”
Twitter has undergone a frenzy of changes since Mr. Musk completed his $44 billion buyout of the company on Oct. 27. He laid off half of its work force last week and added, then delayed, a plan to boost revenue by charging users $8 per month to receive a coveted verification check mark on their profiles. He and his advisers have also discussed allowing users to pay a fee in order to send a direct message to celebrities on the platform and adding “pay-walled” videos.
A swift overhaul. Elon Musk has moved quickly to revamp Twitter since he completed his $44 billion buyout of the social media company in October, warning of a bleak financial picture and a need for new products. Here’s a look at some of the changes so far:
Going private. As part of Mr. Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, he is delisting the company’s stock and taking it out of the hands of public shareholders. Making Twitter a private company gives Mr. Musk some advantages, including not having to make quarterly financial disclosures. Private companies are also subject to less regulatory scrutiny.
Layoffs. Just over a week after closing the deal, Mr. Musk eliminated nearly half of Twitter’s work force, or about 3,700 jobs. The layoffs hit many divisions across the company, including the engineering and machine learning units, the teams that manage content moderation, and the sales and advertising departments.
Verification subscriptions. Twitter began charging customers $7.99 a month to receive a coveted verification check mark on their profiles. But the subscription service was paused after some users exploited it to create havoc on the platform by pretending to be high-profile brands and sending disruptive tweets.
Content moderation. Shortly after closing the deal to buy Twitter, Mr. Musk said that the company would form a content moderation council to decide what kinds of posts to keep up and what to take down. But advertisers have paused their spending on Twitter over fears that Mr. Musk will loosen content rules on the platform.
Other possible changes. As Mr. Musk and his advisers look for ways to generate more revenue at the company, they are said to have discussed adding paid direct messages, which would let users send private messages to high-profile users. The company has also filed registration paperwork to pave the way for it to process payments.
A self-described “free speech absolutist,” Mr. Musk has also said that he would roll back many of Twitter’s content rules, though he has changed nothing yet and plans to form a council in the coming months to advise him on those decisions. Mr. Musk is under financial pressure for Twitter to be a success. His acquisition was the largest buyout ever in the technology industry. He also loaded the company with $13 billion in debt to get the deal done, which will require it to pay more than $1 billion in interest annually. And Twitter has historically lost money and grown at a slower rate than some of its competitors.
Mr. Musk and his confidants have brainstormed ideas for Twitter’s business for weeks, taking action on some of them. Last week, the company filed registration paperwork to pave the way for it to process payments, according to a filing with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, which was obtained by The New York Times.
Mr. Musk has often mused about incorporating payments into Twitter. On Wednesday, he said that he envisioned users connecting their online bank accounts to the social media service, with the company moving later into “debit cards, checks and whatnot.” Turning Twitter into a payments processor would be a return of sorts for Mr. Musk to his early days in the tech industry. In 1999, he helped found, an online bank that later became PayPal.
Businesses that conduct money transfers, exchange currency or cash checks are required to register with FinCEN, and to report suspicious transactions to the agency. A FinCEN spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on specific businesses.
Before Mr. Musk took the reins at Twitter, the company had dabbled in financial services. Last September, it added a tipping feature that allows users to make small donations to their favorite Twitter creators, using cash or cryptocurrency. It has also let people charge subscription fees for exclusive content, like newsletters, and takes a small cut of their earnings.
But Twitter lacks sophisticated payments systems, which could generate revenue for the company if Mr. Musk can build them and convince people to use them.
The billionaire also offered several other ideas for making money in his session with advertisers, though he was sometimes short on specifics.
Mr. Musk said that video “is an area that we’re going to invest in tremendously.” He suggested that users who pay for the Twitter Blue subscription service will initially be able to post 10-minute clips, then 42-minute videos and then eventually ones that are several hours long.
He added that helping content creators make money off their posts was a “no-brainer,” and said that he wanted users to be able to buy products “effortlessly” on Twitter with a single click.
Mr. Musk was also enthusiastic about charging for account verification, denoted by a blue check mark, saying that the $8 monthly fee would raise the cost of creating a fake account so that fraudsters eventually “will stop trying.” He likened content produced by unverified accounts to the sort of emails that end up in the spam folder — viewable but not as easily available — and that people will end up looking largely at Twitter’s verified accounts.
To address concerns that paying for verification can cause confusion if some people pretend to be who they aren’t, Mr. Musk cautioned that Twitter “will actively suspend accounts engaged in deception or trickery.” He described the system as “a leveling of the playing field,” a departure from “the lords and peasants situation where some people have blue check marks and some don’t.”
Advertisers were not exempt, he said, though he added that if they really didn’t want to pay, “I’ll pay for them.”
A separate verification mark, a gray badge that was rolled out to major media, corporate and government organizations, appeared briefly and then disappeared on Wednesday after Mr. Musk tweeted that he “killed it.” On Wednesday’s call, he said the mark was “an aesthetic nightmare” and also “simply another way of creating a two-class system.”
Mr. Musk spoke about trying to make ads on Twitter more relevant to users while also protecting advertisers — who provide about 90 percent of the company’s revenue — from hate speech and misinformation. He said the best way for companies to understand how Twitter was addressing concerns about brand safety was to continue to use the platform.
“I understand if people wanted to kind of, you know, give it a minute and kind of see how things are evolving,” he said when asked by Robin Wheeler, Twitter’s new head of ad sales, about an advertising pullback by companies such as General Mills and United Airlines. “Actually, we’ve been more rigorous about clamping down on bad content and bots and trolls, not less. So my observation of Twitter over the past few weeks is that the content is actually improving.”
He added that he also planned to push “Community Notes,” an “epic” feature previously known as Birdwatch that lets users add context to tweets. Mr. Musk said it will help improve accuracy on the platform and reduce the need for content rules, a belief that many misinformation researchers do not share.
Ultimately, he said, referring to a tweet earlier in the day about experimentation, “the intent is not to do dumb things. We’re not aspirationally dumb. We’re aspirationally, you know, not dumb.”
Ryan Mac contributed reporting.


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