Video distributor Magnify has completed the acquisition of Waywire, the video startup best known for its connection to politician Cory Booker. As we reported earlier, Magnify will now power Waywire’s video curation/aggregation site. Booker, who donated his shares in Waywire to charity last week, won one of New Jersey’s U.S. Senate seats in a special election yesterday.
Earlier this week, AllThingsD broke the news of two major fundings of a pair of hot startups: Scrapbooking service Pinterest and messaging service Snapchat.
Pinterest’s round of $225 million at a $3.8 billion valuation was confirmed by the company, while Snapchat declined to comment on one it is working on to raise several hundred million dollars at a $3.6 billion one.
But numerous sources said the Los Angeles-area company was indeed talking to an Asian strategic investor – AllThingsD named China’s Tencent as the likeliest candidate – and others about the funding.
The news quickly brought out the expected agonizing about the creation of yet another bubble in tech investing, a meme that was especially underscored by the fact that neither company makes any revenue to speak of, if at all.
That might change soon, though. Or, perhaps more precisely, it might have to, unless either sells to a bigger player.
And, in fact, sources said that Pinterest, which has already been experimenting with unpaid advertising, has been conducting a search for a top-notch exec to head sales, and has talked to a range of candidates, including from both Google and Facebook.
The goal, said sources, is to begin to put in place a sales organization to take advantage of its fast growth.
Pinterest has certainly seen that, as consumers have flocked to the free site on which they “pin” photos of their interests and share them widely. Usage has exploded since it was founded several years ago; it has also become an increasingly key driver of traffic across the Web to other sites.
While comScore showed Pinterest had 24.9 million unique monthly users in September, that is only in the U.S., and is desktop-only. In March alone, after mobile and international is added, it had close to 50 million unique monthly users worldwide.
To take advantage of that user base for revenue, the company just started its first test of advertising, called “promoted pins,” which appear in search results and category feeds.
But it remains an unpaid trial, according to the extensive disclosure post, personally penned by Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann, that tried to ease users into the idea of advertisers having any place at all on the site.
Still, as with Facebook’s Instagram, advertisers are interested in finding new ways of reaching consumers in innovative ways. Pinterest, essentially, is building the ultimate personalized catalog of the digital age.
Snapchat, on the other hand, is building a service based on images that self-destruct, not exactly a formula that advertisers can grok as yet for marketing opportunities.
Launched in 2011, it has grown popular in a relatively short span of time, effectively creating an entirely new genre of messaging category with its “ephemeral” pictures and videos that last only a matter of seconds. As AllThingsD previously reported, the trend has attracted acquisition attention from Facebook.
In the summer, co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel said the service had 200 million pictures and video taken by its users on a daily basis, up from 150 million just months before. Then, at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in September, he said that the number had grown to 350 million self-destructing messages daily.
Such wildfire growth prompted Spiegel to note various ideas about monetization, including experimenting with bands, and listening to music inside the app.
In fact, in-app purchases are a specialty of Tencent, one of Snapchat’s possible new investors.
So far, though, a Snapchat spokeswoman said it had not hired any sales execs, and was not currently looking for a big name. She noted that it has added a head of business and monetization, Philippe Browning, a former VP of advertising and operations for CBS Mobile, this year. But he is not in charge of any sales effort, instead focusing on ideas for monetization.
Still, in a June interview with Forbes, Spiegel said that he “previously directed all emails from interested marketers into a dead-end mailbox. Those emails now go to Browning.”
A step forward, I suppose.
Right now, The Onion doesn’t make a lot of sense. They have to rethink what they’re doing because nobody – especially the younger audience – knows the structure of how news articles are written because they don’t read newspapers.
– Tim Keck, co-founder of The Onion and founder of The Stranger, speaking at the Seattle Interactive Conference Monday morning
Programmers that are fighting with Aereo, the Web TV service, have already threatened to move their shows from free broadcast TV to paid cable TV if Aereo wins its court battle.
Now the guys that sell sports are chiming in. If Aereo wins, say goodbye to Saturday night baseball or Sunday afternoon football on broadcast TV, said Major League Baseball and the National Football League.
The sports leagues lobbed a “friend of the court” brief to the Supreme Court last week, asking the court to take up the case, which pits broadcast station owners and programmers against Aereo, the IAC-backed startup that distributes broadcast signals over the Web, but doesn’t pay for them.
The leagues, of course, want the court to rule against Aereo. If it doesn’t, “the option for copyright holders will be to move that content to paid cable networks (such as ESPN and TNT) where Aereo-like services cannot hijack and exploit their programming without authorization,” the MLB and NFL’s lawyers wrote.
It’s unclear just how fast the leagues could unwind their programming deals with broadcasters in the event of an Aereo victory – and whether lawmakers would let them.
On the other hand, the threat isn’t completely idle, since Big Time Sports have already been moving from broadcast to cable for years. For instance: If you want to watch the Patriots and the Panthers tonight, you’ll need to be in front of a TV (or tablet) connected to ESPN.
Apple gave its Apple TV set-top box an internal overhaul Friday, issuing a software update that adds a few new features to the device. Arriving two days after AllThingsD predicted it would, the new firmware brings with it a bunch of enhancements.
Among new features included in Apple TV 6.0: Support for iTunes Radio and purchases from the iTunes Music Store, the ability to view videos and photos from a shared photo stream, and AirPlay From iCloud, an upgrade to Apple’s AirPlay wireless-streaming software that allows people who have purchased content from Apple’s iTunes store to play that same content on other Apple TVs.
Today’s update to Apple TV follows the release of iOS 7, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system earlier this week; there is continued speculation about new Apple TV hardware.
Amir Efrati, who has covered Google for The Wall Street Journal for the past three years, plans to head to a new technology journalism startup founded by former colleague Jessica Lessin.
Lessin, the Journal’s former Apple reporter, recently left the paper after eight years as a reporter and editor, in order to found a new technology news venture.
While she has not revealed its name or the details of the site as yet, sources said she will be funding the effort herself for now. In addition to Efrati, Lessin has also hired Eric Newcomer, who most recently worked for the Washington Examiner.
Efrati’s last day at the Journal is this Thursday; he will start at the Lessin venture in August. He declined to comment, as did Lessin.
The departures come as the Journal plans to beef up its Silicon Valley technology coverage under new global tech editor Jonathan Krim, who is also in charge of the San Francisco bureau. He is planning an aggressive tech expansion, with a goal of hiring seven to eight new reporters and editors to cover the space, including a new Google reporter to replace Efrati.
The Journal – which is owned by News Corp, as is AllThingsD – declined to comment on its hiring plans. There have been a number of departures in the San Francisco bureau of late, including Ben Worthen, who went to Sequoia Capital, and deputy bureau chief Pui-Wing Tam, who is now at Bloomberg as its U.S. tech team leader.
The Journal is also seeking a new Facebook reporter to replace Evelyn Rusli, who will spearhead a new beat called “Innovations.” Rusli, who came to the Journal from the New York Times, will write primarily about private companies and “big ideas” in Silicon Valley, from early-stage funding and deal-flow stories to new ideas on the horizon.
Zynga said it lost one cent a share today, on an adjusted basis, which bested Wall Street expectations of a loss of up to four cents. Last year in the same period, Zynga earned one cent.
That passes as good news for the troubled San Francisco online social gaming company, which is in the midst of a turnaround.
Adjusted revenues – or, in Zynga’s case, bookings – were essentially in line with expectations, at $188 million versus expectations of about $185 million. Total revenue was $231 million, down almost 40 percent from a year ago.
In addition, there was a significant drop in monthly active users in the quarter to 187 million from 306 million a year ago, Zynga said. Daily active users were also down to 39 million from 72 million a year ago, and monthly uniques declined to 123 million from 193 million.
Not good, obviously.
“The next few years will be a time of phenomenal growth in our space and Zynga has incredible assets to take advantage of the market opportunity,” said former Microsoft Xbox head Don Mattrick, who was appointed new CEO of Zynga two weeks ago. “To do that, we need to get back to basics and take a longer term view on our products and business, develop more efficient processes and tighten up execution all across the company. We have a lot of hard work in front of us and as we reset, we expect to see more volatility in our business than we would like over the next two to four quarters.”
Zynga also said today that it would abandon real-money gaming efforts in the U.S., which rattled investors hoping for a lucrative payoff down the road in the fast-growing arena.
There will be a conference call with investors at 2 pm PT today, where execs will explain it all for you. Or not so much.
Here’s the actual press release, if you want to study up:
Although blogging is nearly as old as the Internet, it still feels like something is amiss.
From Dustin Curtis’ Svbtle to Ev Williams’ Medium, there is a feeling afoot that existing platforms for blogs and long-form content still need a lot of improvement. Five years ago, early platforms like Blogger gave way to micro-blogging and networks like Tumblr.
Now we’re seeing the pendulum swing back with platforms for longer-form stories and media.
SETT is a blogging platform that’s looking to emphasize community, so that new users can find a right audience immediately and long-time bloggers can interact with higher-quality commenters and contributors.
Aside from features that are now standard these days like a news feed of content and WYSIWYG editing, SETT has a top bar where it’s easy for bloggers to track comments or even private messages from others in the SETT community.
From the start, when new users sign up for an account, SETT refers readers to your site. It has a word-matching system internally that compares posts to one another. If a reader happens to like a post about one topic, the platform will recommend other similar ones to them.
The site is the brainchild of a long-time blogger named Tynan (who declines to use his last name online ever) and Todd Iceton, a developer who worked for Nutshell Mail, the company that was acquired by e-mail marketing giant Constant Contact.
Tynan has been actively blogging for six years but found that it was a bit of a slog for any new user.
“For people who are just starting out, their biggest hurdle is just getting that community first,” he said.
There are other features meant to enhance a reader’s relationship with a blogger like a simple, one-click e-mail subscription system. Subscribers get notified of new posts and new comments on posts they’ve decided to individually follow.
Readers can also start their own independent discussions about posts in a community section, where they can see who is online and which posts are being actively read by a lot of users.
The site has had about 100 or so active blogs in beta form, but they’ve opened it up since. Some of the more popular voices on the platform are entrepreneurs like Dick Talens, who co-founded 500 Startups-backed Fitocracy and blogs about how to stay in shape.
The bootstrapped startup earns revenue through premium or subscription accounts that range from $12 to $99 per month in cost. At the higher-end of the range, users get more image-hosting space, subscribers and customer support.
As for the competition, Tynan and his co-founder Todd say that, while they have respect for the other platforms, Svbtle doesn’t encourage commenting. In any case, they agree that something needs to be done to update outdated blogging formats – even if starting a web-first blogging platform in 2013 seems a bit anachronistic.
“Both are expressing frustration with the standard format. The WordPress model hasn’t changed in 10 to 12 years,” Tynan said. “Their model is kind of broken.”
Editor’s Note: Semil Shah is a contributor to TechCrunch. You can follow him on Twitter at @semil.
Throughout high school and college, I took a heavy dose of political science and history classes. As a result, those teachers and professors stressed the importance of investigating primary source documents and analyzing them on their own merits versus secondary sources (like textbooks, for instance), even though we were all issued textbooks, essays by subject matter experts, and a range of other interpretations. Eventually as college ended, the courses focused more on the primary source and our own interpretation of it.
Fast forward to today. At least in the world of startup technology news, which moves too fast to be captured by textbooks or print-versions of magazines, primary sources remain important, but social sources – at least for me – trump all. Of course, in early-stage, private companies, obtaining primary sources is difficult. In my world of tech news, like many, Twitter is my main source of information and how I surf the web. Specifically on Twitter, however, I do not follow any “news sources” directly. There is too much information out there. As a result, I try to follow people who’ve I’ve grown to trust who read and share articles or random blog posts.
In order for me to read something, I need a social signal to trigger and capture my attention. “Who” shares it with me matters. The “source” matters still, just not as much. And, in some cases, the source online can be propped up by a brand and hold power in its distribution. Real estate to create content online is infinite. There is no barrier to entry to create information, to build an audience, to generate page views, and to peg those against ads. Therefore, at least in my small world of online tech news, social sources reign supreme.
I’m guessing many of you reading this may feel the same way. The social signal from following a friend or trusted industry source motivates me to gain interest in a link, to read the story, or save for later. The most critical piece of information in that decision is not where the link originates from and resides, but rather who has shared this link. In a way, the tweet itself, as a unit of social currency, is more important than the source itself. One product which demonstrates the pervasiveness of this Flipboard. Yes, Flipboard has dedicated media channels for sources, but on their social feeds, the author of a piece of content is nearly greyed out so that the reader can focus on “who” shared the content with them over “who” created it.
The point of view I’m sharing obviously isn’t new or earth-shattering. The idea of “social news” has even collected dust. We all know it to be true. However, I believe this has big, long-term implications for online media brands. In my college history experience, book publishers spent time aligning with universities, professors, and other beacons in that world in order to make sure their materials were picked as sources. Fast-forward to today, those kind of tactics may not be as effective. Instead, media brands are forced to think critically about the quality of their loyal, core audience, because it is those individuals who will, as social sources, share and discuss the content, information, facts and myths with their own friends and audiences. This is where real, sustainable distribution lies. For media companies online, the social source trumps the primary source – it is the realization that who shares information online is oftentimes more important than what that information is. And for many media brands, that is a fundamentally – and at times scary – new reality.
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Montes / Flickr Creative Commons