A Tumblr, Indeed

Daunting, By Facebook, Apple Card, Tracking Impossible, Once Upon a Deal

“Well below” $20 million. That was the initial price Dan Primack reported that WordPress parent Automattic paid to buy Tumblr from Verizon.

That was then updated to say that one source put the price below $10 million.

Actually, “less than $3 million,” is what Primack is saying now.

In order, that’s: “Wow”, “Whoa”, and “Holy Shit”.

It is just a truly remarkable destruction of value for an entity that was purchased for $1.1 billion just six years ago. It’s hard to think of anything comparable — even companies that fully go under tend not to have hundreds of millions of users that are essentially valued at nothing. And how on Earth are any patents Tumblr has valued so low? (Does Verizon keep them?) Was all the value wiped out by Automattic taking on any liabilities? Server costs? How on Earth did founder David Karp not buy this back at this price?! Even if just for a nostalgic domain? Any number of SEO players? Porn power players? (Presumably, Verizon wanted to find a good home for the service?) There are so many questions!

Still, as a long-time Tumblr user (and one-time investor!), I’m glad the service has found a home under the guidance of Matt Mullenweg. My first request is to stop the same generic awful ad from showing up every two-to-three posts in the feed. My second is to make it fun again. At this price, what is there to lose?


Can Britain’s Top Bookseller Save Barnes & Noble?

Speaking of a brand in need of a savior, here’s David Segal profiling James Daunt, the man being brought in to sake Barnes & Noble:

There are other ways that Mr. Daunt distinguishes Waterstones from what he calls “our friends in Seattle.” In January, during a speech before a group of booksellers in Venice, he likened Amazon to the boy-devouring lion in “Jim,” a poem by Hilaire Belloc.

“Nothing happens quickly, but it happens remorselessly,” he told the audience, in the methodical tone of a man telling a ghost story. “It never stops. It gets worse and it gets worse, and if you’re not careful, you end up being entirely eaten.”

He paused, allowed a small grin and added, “But we haven’t been entirely eaten.”

Waterstones — the largest bookstore chain in the UK, which Daunt has run for the past 8 years, is a remarkable turnaround story itself. And obviously speaks very well to what Daunt will try to do here. Here’s the simple high level of how he’ll likely do it:

But the company has largely persisted by selling the pleasure of bookstores first and books second. Because if a store is charming and addictive enough, goes Mr. Daunt’s theory, buying a book there isn’t just more pleasant. The book itself is better than the same book bought online.

“It just is,” he said. “You’ll enjoy it more. You’ll read it quicker. You chose it with your own eyes, your hands, your ears. Now it’s all about anticipation. If you buy a book from Amazon, there’s a little anticipation as you rip the tag off the envelope. But it’s generally slightly flat and disappointing.”

I’m a sucker for these type of intangibles… Not to mention, the details:

Publishers are now in constant dialogue with Mr. Daunt and his buyers about upcoming books, often nine months before publication, relying on the strength of what is between the covers. Actually, the covers matter, too. Waterstones executives — and this is true of large chains around the world — will often suggest alterations, some large, others tiny. They recommended that the serpent on the cover of “The Essex Serpent” be changed from green to blue for the winter months when it was the chain’s book of the year. (“Sharper, colder, less fusty,” Mr. Daunt said.) It went back to green when spring arrived.

Anyway, I have faith in Daunt not just because of Waterstones, but more so because he created my favorite bookstore chain — the small one that bears his name in London (pictured above, which we lived a block away from for a time). Before Amazon even existed, he realized that it was just as much about selling an experience.


Facebook to Add Its Name to Instagram, WhatsApp

Alex Heath on a shocking — and yet not at all shocking — change coming to Facebook’s family of apps:

Employees for the apps were recently notified about the changes, which come as antitrust regulators are examining Facebook’s acquisitions of both apps. The app rebranding is a major departure for Facebook, which until recently had allowed the apps to operate and be branded independently. The distance has helped both apps avoid being tarnished by the privacy scandals that have hurt Facebook. The move to add Facebook’s name to the apps has been met with surprise and confusion internally, reflecting the autonomy that the units have operated under.

The first thing that jumps to mind: Facebook is dead. Long live Facebook!

This is pretty clearly a way to cheat death (eventually). Or, at the very least, to hedge against it. It’s a lot harder to have a narrative around the “decline of Facebook” when Instagram by Facebook and WhatsApp by Facebook are thriving. (Not to mention that it would seem to be an attempt to solidify the “they can’t be broken apart” narrative…)

But there is a very real downside risk here. As the article notes, many people don’t know that Instagram is owned by Facebook. If and when they now know, does that change their usage at all? Even I — obviously very aware who Instagram is owned by — find myself questioning if this will or should change my usage. I mean, it’s just a name change! But it’s also a clear signal of the way forward...


Apple Rolls Out Apple Card Preview

Matthew Panzarino:

The cash rewards are delivered daily, and made available to you very quickly on your Apple Cash card balance. Usually in less than a day. You can then do an instant transfer to your bank for a maximum $10 fee or a 1-3 day transfer for free. This cashout is faster than just about any other cash back program out there and certainly way faster cash reward tallying than anyone else. And Apple makes no effort to funnel you into a pure statement credit version of cash back, like many other cards do. The cash becomes cash pretty instantly.

I could easily see the bar Apple sets here — daily rewards tallies and instant cashouts — becoming industry standard.

To me, nothing about the Apple Card seems revolutionary except for the user experience. Simple set up. Place names (and logos) instead of gibberish in your statement. Virtual cards (and numbers). And this is, of course, what Apple is best at. None of the concepts may be new, but Apple is able to push them — and, as a result, entire industries — forward, at a scale not possible beforehand.

So yeah, I’m fairly bullish here.


Where Can I Buy The Impossible Burger? A Real Time Tracker

This. This is why technology and the internet exists, people.

(I should note that GV, where I’m a partner, is an investor in Impossible Foods, makers of said burger. But I should also note that I legitimately love said burger.)


Tarantino Scored Rare Ownership Deal With 'Once Upon a Time'

Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit:

Sources say Quentin Tarantino's deal for Once Upon a Time gives him full ownership of the underlying copyright after 30 years in a complex schedule that shifts ownership from studio to filmmaker over that period. (Several sources say the timetable is a much shorter 20 years, with one source saying it's 10 years.) That puts the Oscar winner among a tiny pool of directors who have negotiated ownership stakes in their films, including George Lucas, Mel Gibson, Peter Jackson, and Richard Linklater.

Hard to overstate how big of a deal this actually is. It’s apparently literally the way Sony beat out Warner to distribute the film. It’s the type of deal that made George Lucas, George Lucas. And while Once Upon a Time is unlikely to have the product tie-ins (though there are some!) let alone sequels, it’s an interesting precedent for a major studio (Tarantino reportedly secured these rights when under Miramax as well) in an interesting time…

While Netflix plays hardball in this regard, relying on upfront payments to eliminate backend deals and any sorts of rights questions, do the other up-and-coming streamers — not to mention the traditional studios — try to end-run-around by giving up such rights after an initial run? You could see this shift quickly…

[via Jason Kilar]


Once Upon a Time in a Cinema

Speaking of… here are some initial thoughts on the aforementioned film. Which I finally got to a theater — a real life movie theater (not this oneor this one) — to see.


Brilliant idea. That is really happening.