Over the last decade, Twitter has defined sports fans’ second screen experience. For many, it became the place to catch up on NBA highlights, get the latest bit of NFL news and—if you were so inclined—engage in whatever the debate of the day might be. Certain athletes’ tweets have driven entire news cycles.
Today, Twitter’s place among fan destinations is a little less certain. One week after Elon Musk acquired the social network for $44 billion, Twitter laid off up to half of its 7,500-person workforce Friday. A full accounting of the staffing reductions is not yet clear, but now-former employees’ tweets indicate that the sports partnerships, marketing and communications teams—among others—have lost staff members. (Yes, Twitter has proven to be a strong reporting tool in addition to a key piece of the modern fan experience). A request for comment to the company has not been returned by press time.
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As for what the “new Twitter” might look like, Musk recently unveiled plans for an $8/month power-user service. There have also been reports of a bigger push into video, as well as new ways for users to paywall their own posts and charge followers to send them direct messages.
It remains to be seen how any of these potential changes would impact the way athletes and sports brands use Twitter, especially if the makeup of Twitter’s user base shifts as a result of the moves.
Via text, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said he’s yet to have any discussions about changing how he personally uses the service, breaking news to his nearly 10 million followers. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, meanwhile, did not express much concern about what a sports landscape without Twitter might look like.
“We thrived before Twitter,” Cuban told The Washington Post this week. “We can thrive after if need be.”
Amid the layoffs, Musk tweeted that Twitter has already seen “a massive drop in revenue” due to advertiser departures. General Mills and Audi of America are among the companies publicly pausing their Twitter advertising spend.
One major sports team executive, granted anonymity to discuss private business developments, said they’ve also had at least one partner ask to suspend Twitter-based activations for the time being. Still, the source said, sports team brands themselves are unlikely to leave the platform imminently. “We need the reach, and we’re intertwined with that platform,” the person said. “I don’t really know that we have a great alternative yet other than hoping that the platform doesn’t take a very dark turn.” For now, the exec is monitoring the situation, keeping team leaders and ownership updated on issues like staff volatility, the potential for hate speech on the platform, paywall possibilities and the chance of usership fluctuations.
While Twitter’s dramatic week has been by far the most public, it’s not the only tech company undergoing layoffs. According to a KPMG survey released last month, 90% of U.S. CEOs anticipate a recession within the next year, partially explaining some of the moves to trim tech staff amid warnings of a potential “layoff surge.”
Earlier this week, NBA Top Shot and NFL All Day maker Dapper Labs announced a 22% staff cut, according to a memo from CEO Roham Gharegozlou published on Dapper’s corporate website.
“Our company grew incredibly fast—from 100 to over 600 employees in less than two years—introducing operational challenges which prevented us from being as aligned, nimble and community-driven as we need to be,” Gharegozlou wrote. “I take responsibility for that, as well as for the difficult decision to do this layoff and restructure our business to better serve our communities.”
Other large tech firms, including Lyft and Stripe, recently announced layoffs of more than 10% of their respective staffs. Even Amazon and Apple have reportedly instituted limited hiring freezes. In a public letter, Amazon SVP of people experience and technology Beth Galetti wrote that the “pause” would likely be in place “for the next few months.”
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