Elon Musk's X faces $75m loss in 2023 ad revenue

Social media platform said to be in more difficult position than publicly known as companies withdraw en masse

Boosting X's revenue stream has been a top priority for Elon Musk ever since he bought the platform for $44 billion in October last year. AP
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Elon Musk's X could lose out on up to $75 million in advertising revenue by the end of 2023 as more companies pull their money out of the increasingly polarising social media platform.

The site, formerly known as Twitter, is in a "more difficult position" than publicly known amid the mass exit of advertisers, which gained momentum after Mr Musk, the world's wealthiest person, endorsed an anti-Semitic post this month, The New York Times reported, quoting internal documents.

The documents, which were seen this week and came from X's sales team, also showed that more than 200 advertising units of notable companies are either considering suspending their adverts on X or stopping altogether.

The documents have kept track of the effect of all the "advertising lapses" in November, the Times reported. X said in a statement on Friday that $11 million in revenue was at risk amid the crisis and that the exact figure fluctuated as some advertisers returned and others boosted their advertising spending.

X said the figure reported by the Times was "either outdated or represented an exercise to evaluate total risk".

Boosting X's revenue stream has been a top priority for Mr Musk ever since he bought the platform for $44 billion in October last year.

Advertisers, however, began leaving the site after he took over and reduced content moderation, resulting in a sharp rise in hate speech on the platform, rights groups have said.

The X advertising boycott gained steam last week when US watchdog Media Matters published a report that said pro-Nazi advertisements on the platform were being placed next to content from prominent global companies.

Since then, major organisations have paused their advertising activity on X. Among the most notable are Apple, Disney, US media company Comcast, entertainment major Paramount, movie studio Lionsgate and the European Commission.

Airbnb, Amazon, Coca-Cola and Microsoft have also paused their advertising activity on X, according to the documents viewed by the Times.

The Media Matters report said advertising buys on X “either come from direct buys or through its partnership with ad exchanges like Google Ads”.

Mr Musk fired back on X, calling the report a “fraudulent attack”. He filed what he has called a "thermonuclear lawsuit" on Monday against the Washington-based organisation and “all those who colluded”.

“To manipulate the public and advertisers, Media Matters created an alternate account and curated the posts and advertising appearing on the account's timeline to misinform advertisers about the placement of their posts,” according to a document posted by Mr Musk on X.

Media Matters also criticised X chief executive Linda Yaccarino, claiming she “attempted to stem the advertiser exodus by claiming that brands are 'protected from the risk of being next to' toxic posts and repeatedly writing that the platform stands against anti-Semitism”.

In response, Ms Yaccarino, who took over from Mr Musk in June, said X had been “extremely clear about our efforts to combat anti-Semitism and discrimination”.

The Times also noted that the advertising freezes could affect X's bottom line in the fourth quarter, traditionally the company's strongest and most lucrative three-month period, as companies run major promotions through the site amid shopping bonanzas including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and the Christmas holiday season.

X reported $1.57 billion in revenue during the last three months of 2021, the last fourth quarter earnings report before Mr Musk took over the company.

Updated: November 25, 2023, 7:20 AM