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Opinion: Twitter staff get their first glimpse of life with Elon

If Elon Musk ends up buying Twitter, his employees got a glimpse of what life with him at the helm could be like during a video chat with all hands on Thursday.

In typical Musk fashion, he was late for the live virtual broadcast, sometimes inaudible, and reportedly called on his phone The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Musk often makes investors wait in front of Tesla TSLA,
-8.54%
events and sometimes has a rambling ad hoc speaking style. But he agreed to a request from Twitter’s chief marketing officer, Sheryl Berland, to stay a little longer. Berland asked some pre-submitted questions compiled by Twitter’s 9,600 employees.

A few things were clear from his comments, as reported: If Musk ends up with the company he agreed to buy for $44 billion, he will very likely be downsizing; he’s not a big fan of remote work; and he’s inspired by China’s big, successful platforms TikTok and WeChat, which he says are “not boring.”

Tesla’s self-proclaimed “technoking” also made it abundantly clear that there will be a major cultural divide between the company and its new owner should its deal go through. Earlier this month, Twitter agreed to share a full data stream with Musk, who has asked Twitter for more data on the percentage of users who are bots or spam, saying that Twitter’s accounting for user bots is grossly understated.

“Obviously, layoffs are on the horizon,” Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives said Thursday, adding he didn’t think the meeting would reassure Twitter employees. “Clearly there will be a very different strategy under Musk.”

Musk said that Twitter’s costs exceed its revenue, and “it’s not a great situation,” Musk said a transcript compiled by ReCode. He also said a measure of future success would be if Twitter significantly increased its daily active users by “at least” 1 billion in five to 10 years; Twitter now reports only monetizable daily active users and said it had an average of 229 million monetizable daily active users in the first quarter.

Musk was asked by employees about moderating content on Twitter, and he said people should be allowed to say whatever they want, within the limits of the law. The Journal reported that he distinguished between freedom of expression and freedom of reach. Musk said users should be “allowed to say pretty outrageous things that are within the law,” but that those posts shouldn’t necessarily be amplified. “The standard is more than ‘not to offend people.’ The standard should be that they’re very well entertained,” he said, according to the transcript.

Shares of Twitter TWTR,
-1.66%
initially bounced on Thursday following video chat news but later fell nearly 2% by the end of the trading session.

Ives said the meeting didn’t do much for investors. “I think it had the opposite effect — it wasn’t reassuring, he wasn’t talking about his recommitment to the Twitter deal, and there were more questions than answers,” Ives said. “So overall it wasn’t a smart move.”

The next phase of the Twitter/Elon Musk soap opera comes after Musk verified user credentials submitted by the company as part of his ongoing search for a lower price. Wall Street clearly doesn’t believe the deal, if it goes through, will come anywhere close to Musk’s original $54.20 per share offer, which both parties agreed to. The stock closed at $37.36 on Thursday.

“We think it’ll get done for $42 to $45,” Ives said.

Whatever the outcome, if Elon has his way — as many staffers have feared — Twitter will never be the same.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/twitter-employees-get-their-first-glimpse-at-life-with-elon-11655411594?rss=1&siteid=rss Opinion: Twitter staff get their first glimpse of life with Elon

Brian Lowry

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