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.


Marco Arment writing on the official Instapaper Blog:

The best way to prevent Instapaper from accessing 9to5Mac’s pages was to add them to the opt-out list. So I did that, thinking I’d let the dust settle and reevaluate that decision later once I had a better idea of how they felt about Instapaper.

In retrospect, that was an overreaction. 9to5Mac’s statements, as much as they angered and scared me, did not constitute an opt-out. Furthermore, it was inappropriate to add a publisher to the opt-out list that did not explicitly request it.

Amidst yesterday's various controversies, I was endlessly pleased to see this post on the official Instapaper Blog. Setting aside matters of personal conflict, Marco made a measured, rational, and well-considered statement of accountability and apology.

Aptly juxtaposed with Seth Weintraub's petty response from yesterday afternoon, Marco did what I hoped he would: he took the high-road.

Looking beyond the vapid echo-chamber that is 9to5Mac, particularly considering its offensive position towards Marco and his company, Marco made an admirable statement of accountability and, in doing so, elevated himself far above the conflict.

Perhaps we, as members of this community, were already aware of Marco's nature, but I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of Marco's users do not know him in such a fashion. Yesterday, however, by assuming responsibility for his actions and defining the boundaries between his personal and business affairs, Marco showed himself to be a fallible, likable, and responsible person.

In a digital world increasingly encumbered by anonymity and a distinct lack of accountability, Marco has gone against the grain and taken responsibility for his actions, in spite of a distasteful series of personal attacks from 9to5Mac. In my eyes, that's certainly deserving of praise.

Pocket Reaches 6 Million Users, Raises $5 Million in Funding


Adrianna Jeffries:

Pocket added 1.5 million registered users after the redesign. It now has 6 million users who save a million items a day. Users are starting to think of Pocket as a place to save all sorts of media: The amount of video saved by users has doubled since the redesign, Weiner said. The app differentiated itself from other save-for-later apps (ahem, Instapaper) by adding filters to separate different types of content, and, of course, by being free.

Today, Pocket has another announcement. The company raised a $5 million round of funding on top of the $2.5 million it raised last year. The round was led by Foundation Capital, a Menlo Park firm that also backed Netflix. Firms participating included Baseline Ventures, a relatively new firm founded by eBay veteran Steve Anderson, and the choosy Google Ventures.

Several months later, and I continue to be very impressed by Pocket. Supporting a content agnostic attitude toward the traditional “save for later” service, Pocket has become an extraordinarily useful element of my day-to-day workflow.

Although I have a deep-seated appreciation for Instapaper, Pocket’s versatility, intelligent app design, and general capability renders it a consistent victor for my attention. Moreover, given its stated purpose as a means to gather all forms of content, I tend to see it as a much more modern solution to a historical problem.

Having said that, I certainly don’t mean to downplay the significance of Instapaper. The latest re-design of the app — particularly on the iPad — is nothing short of phenomenal. But, as is the nature of the digital service industry, you inevitably have to pick one and stick with it. For me, Pocket has won my attention for the coming year, and I’m certainly excited to see what their “massive” plans entail.