Instapaper Acquired by Betaworks

Marco Arment:

I’m happy to announce that I’ve sold a majority stake in Instapaper to Betaworks. We’ve structured the deal with Instapaper’s health and longevity as the top priority, with incentives to keep it going well into the future. I will continue advising the project indefinitely, while Betaworks will take over its operations, expand its staff, and develop it further.

Coupling the pace of Instapaper's venture-funded competition with the success of The Magazine, the acquisition makes perfect sense.

Marco's repeatedly articulated his resentment toward competitors like Pocket, particularly focusing upon their lack of monetization and reliance upon venture funding. Of course, although he has moral objections to these aspects of Pocket's business model, that's not to say they haven't built a compelling product. Moreover, it's one that lacks the typical friction of a business relying solely upon traditional revenues.

Accordingly, it's clear that an increasingly uphill battle against a company unburdened by revenue requirements would likely be unattractive to Marco. Pocket is doing a lot of things right and — given his time constraints — Marco simply wouldn't have the time or means to continue fighting on such terms.

Beyond Pocket and Instapaper, however, Marco's focus has been divided. Boasting Pulitzer prize-winning authors and a huge amount of support from the community, The Magazine has grown far beyond its initial offering as a small-time bi-weekly publication. And Marco's genuine enthusiasm and recognition of this fact has certainly not gone undocumented.

For Betaworks, as they turn toward Digg Originals and their own RSS reader, Instapaper abides by their future vision almost too perfectly. They've shown a dedication to clean, curated, and positive content and, with today's acquisition, they'll have further weapons in their arsenal to fight in that industry.

So, in all, the move makes plenty of sense.

I will say, however, that it's surreal to watch Instapaper — a product entrenched in a thoroughly anti-contemporary business mentality — find its way into a venture-backed company with no pre-existing means for revenue. Although Marco argues that Betaworks is a perfect fit — and I don't disagree — I am left to wonder whether the competitive aspect of the equation was outweighing the positive allure of The Magazine.

As a further note, it's odd to witness the outpouring of enthusiasm and excitement for this acquisition from a community well-known for its apprehension toward such deals. Obviously this deal doesn't have all the hallmarks of a Silicon Valley acquisition (or acqui-hire), but it is irrevocably an acquisition by a large firm with no focus upon revenue. That's not to say that Instapaper won't live on successfully, but there's an unmistakable double-standard on display today that's worth keeping in mind for the future.

Nevertheless, speculation aside, it's a very positive and forward-thinking deal for Marco. I applaud him wholeheartedly for making it. I know it mustn't be easy to let go of one's baby in such a manner, but it seems it's for the betterment of the product. Moreover, with Glenn Fleishman running The Magazine's editorial side, I'm hopeful that this might free Marco up — with, presumably, some cash infusion — to experiment with some new concepts.

As a final — less journalistic — aside, it's important to recognize the impact and genuine value of Instapaper. When it was first introduced, it utterly redefined the way we thought about consuming digital content and, in my eyes, aided in the resurgence of long-form content online.

And for that we ought to all feel very grateful.

Adobe Acquires Behance

The Behance Team Blog:

Our mission to connect and empower the creative world is getting a big boost today. Our team is thrilled to join Adobe and take Behance to the next level. We’ve been given an opportunity to influence creative work, careers, and the creative industry on a grand scale, and we intend to do just that.

As a Creative Cloud subscriber, I find this news to be very encouraging, indeed.

Creative Cloud has gone from strength to strength since its introduction. Although I was somewhat skeptical as to how long I'd sustain a membership at the outset, I've enjoyed each and every month since. With the recent introduction of the Dropbox-esque Creative Cloud Connection, the service is inching toward all that I'd idealistically hoped it might become.

Now, with the acquisition of Behance, Adobe clearly has its eyes set on the increased socialization of its cloud subscription service. And, if implemented tactfully, that could prove to be an extremely useful feature.

With Creative Cloud, Adobe is steadily moving its historically clumsily interconnected products into a tight-knit grouping of collaborative and communicative software. The Creative Suite is beginning to feel much more akin to a thriving ecosystem, rather than a stand-alone product-line. Where being on the cutting-edge of creative software once felt prohibitive, Creative Cloud now contributes a feeling of facilitation and enablement. And, in my opinion, that's an invaluable thing.

For a company that I was so well-trained to dislike, Adobe continues to impress me with Creative Cloud. It's a forward-thinking initiative — one that I'm pleased the company has chosen to throw all of its weight behind.

"Instagram Testimony Doesn't Add Up"

Nick Bilton, reporting for The New York Times:

Mr. Systrom, who previously worked on mergers and acquisitions at Google, was careful about his interactions with Twitter from the start. He asked to meet in restaurants around San Francisco, rather than in either company’s office, according to people briefed on the talks. When he was handed the term sheet by a Twitter employee, a nonbinding document outlining the terms of a proposed acquisition, he read it and then handed it back, asking Twitter executives to hold onto it over the weekend as he weighed the details, those people said.
It is possible investors would have been better off selling in an open auction, to Twitter or even to Google or Microsoft.

Speaking of accountability, Bilton paints a rather damning picture of Kevin Systrom's behavior in the lead-up to Facebook's acquisition of Instagram.

In essence, it appears Twitter made a $525 million offer just a few days prior to Facebook's $1 billion (later $735 million) acquisition. Systrom claimed not to have ever received any formal offers whilst under oath, but evidence has come to light showing this testimony to be quite inaccurate.

The argument now being made is that Systrom willfully lied to the SEC/DOJ in order to secure a more lucrative deal, an act which has large anti-competitive ramifications for the broader market. Offering dubious claims regarding monetization, the breadth of the Instagram social network, and stating that Instagram would remain "open" to all social networks, there is plenty of evidence freely available contradicting each point of Systrom's testimony.

Still, in spite of the alleged misinformation, I doubt much will come of this situation. The deal was finalized in September and Twitter has since embarked upon a route directly contending with Instagram's filtered photography. I suspect that, if pushed, Systrom would be able to provide loosely adequate responses for most of these allegations — at least well enough to cover himself, Instagram, and Facebook.

Disney Acquires Lucasfilm, Announces 'Star Wars' Episode 7

Walt Disney PR:

Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney stock on October 26, 2012, the transaction value is $4.05 billion, with Disney paying approximately half of the consideration in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing. The final consideration will be subject to customary post-closing balance sheet adjustments.

Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm, will become President of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Additionally she will serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, working directly with Disney's global lines of business to build, further integrate, and maximize the value of this global franchise. Ms. Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future.

Continuing a breathless period of news, I don't think anyone quite expected Disney to make this announcement yesterday afternoon.

Speaking from a purely business perspective, Disney now owns ABC, ESPN, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar. Or, in other words, a property for virtually every demographic of media consumer. Certainly no small feat whatsoever.

Never have I seen Twitter devolve into such unabashed nerdery as I did yesterday. Whether it was talk of Scott Forstall, iPad Mini reviews, the delay of iTunes 11, Star Wars, or belated reflections on Hurricane Sandy, the Internet was abuzz with pure exhiliration.

More than anything else, that's a really fun thing to be a part of and, as we're on the cusp of this site's one year birthday, it serves as an apt reminder of why I started this site in the first place.