Despite all of the talk about censorship and check marks, the main issue confronting Twitter prior to Elon Musk’s takeover was monetization. Musk quickly set about trying to fix the platform’s financial problems. Several board members and nearly half of the company’s workforce were laid off in an effort to reduce outgoings. A bigger issue was money, and Twitter’s new CEO has been desperately trying to implement paid schemes, such as the revamped version of Twitter Blue, to generate more money.
Things aren’t that simple for the world’s richest man, however. The implementation of New Blue, as well as the changes it brought to the verification system, has been chaotic. To make matters worse, many advertisers have taken a step back until they can see the platform’s exact direction. As things stand, advertising accounts for roughly 90% of Twitter’s revenue, and a drop in ad revenue could make it even more difficult for Musk to recoup some of his $44 billion.
Several multibillion-dollar corporations have publicly stated that they will not purchase Twitter ads as things currently stand. General Motors, Volkswagen, Audi, Pfizer, and Mondelez International — the maker of Oreo cookies — are among the companies on the list. Several of the companies withdrawing are vehicle manufacturers, which could indicate a potential conflict with one of Musk’s other companies, Tesla. The primary reason cited appears to be Musk’s plans to make Twitter a “free speech” platform, which has advertisers concerned that their companies’ advertisements may be listed alongside hate speech, extreme opinions, and misinformation. Musk attempted to dispel those notions in an open letter released shortly before the takeover, but it does not appear to have worked.
Another of Musk’s companies may step in to mitigate the impact of the ad exodus. SpaceX is said to have spent a lot of money on one of the company’s most expensive advertising packages. The move is certainly out of character for the space-travel-focused company, which has rarely purchased prominent ads on the platform. The advertisements will promote Starlink, the company’s satellite internet service that operates under SpaceX but is distinct from the NASA collaborations and space tourism for which the company is best known.
According to CNBC, “current and former” Twitter employees confirmed that the advertising packages SpaceX purchased can cost up to a quarter million dollars and can keep a brand at the top of people’s timelines in the targeted area for “a full day.” The brand messaging appears the first three times users open the app on each day the company has paid for. The users in question are from Spain and Australia, respectively, where the advertising packages were purchased. CNBC also claims to have seen “internal records” from Twitter that corroborate the story’s claims.
Musk took to his new platform shortly after the story broke to dismiss it. He described the purchase as a test rather than a bailout, saying: “SpaceX Starlink purchased a small ad package to test the effectiveness of Twitter advertising in Australia and Spain. Same with Facebook, Instagram, and Google.” Musk’s story is certainly plausible, as using one of his own companies would most likely be the most effective way to measure the effectiveness of an advertisement.
He has unrestricted access to data from both Twitter’s advertising department and SpaceX, so he has plenty to analyze. Musk’s tweet appears to correspond with the locations listed in the CNBC article, but he disputes the size of the advertising packages involved, claiming they are “tiny” in comparison to some of the largest and most expensive advertising deals available on Twitter.
Starlink is one of Elon Musk’s more ambitious projects, but it has the potential to have a huge impact on humanity if it is successful. Unlike some of the billionaire’s other wild ideas, such as building a hyperloop between Los Angeles and San Francisco and nuking Mars, Starlink is here and it works. It has already made a significant difference in Ukraine’s ongoing conflict, allowing the Ukrainian military and government to communicate even after Russian forces targeted their infrastructure. It’s also useful if you live in the middle of nowhere and don’t want to be limited to dial-up internet access.
Starlink uses a satellite network to provide high-speed internet access all over the world. It was originally intended for people living in areas where building modern fiber internet infrastructure is simply not feasible. Regular Starlink still has a waiting list in high-demand areas, but users can now avoid this by signing up for Starlink RV. The latter plan was the company’s second option, and it can be used on the go, though it will be limited or capped in areas with active waiting lists during peak hours.
Following the release of Starlink RV, the company’s offerings expanded to include services for boats and private jets — though prices for things like the company’s aviation package are truly exorbitant. SpaceX is in charge of Starlink. The company is also in charge of launching the satellites required by the service to maintain and expand its network. Starlink has launched thousands of satellites into orbit, with plans to launch thousands more, which could cause some complications.