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Episode 13: Push Pop Press (Facebook Instant Articles) with Todd Bishop

Episode 13: Push Pop Press (Facebook Instant Articles) with Todd Bishop

Mon, 06 Jun 2016 06:19

Ben and David are joined by Todd Bishop, technology reporter and co-founder of GeekWire, to discuss Facebook's 2011 acquisition of Push Pop Press. Highlights include:

  • The founding story of Push Pop Press by Kimon Tsinteris and Mike Matas.
  • The evolution of Facebook Creative Labs, Facebook Paper, and eventually, Facebook Instant Articles.
  • Facebook's role in the changing media landscape today.
  • GeekWire's experiments with Facebook Instant Articles, Google Accelerated Mobile Pages, and live video.

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Well, is it anti-Trump? Yes. Then I think we're probably fine. Who got the truth? Is it you, is it you, is it you? Who got the truth now? Is it you, is it you, is it you? Sit me down, say it straight. Another story on the way. Who got the truth? Welcome back to episode 13 of Acquired, the show where we talk about technology acquisitions that actually went well. I'm Ben Gilbert. I'm David Rosenthal. And we are your hosts. We have a very special guest today, visiting us from GeekWire, Todd Bishop. Hey, it's great to be here. So great to have you. I'm a fan. I'm a listener. I think yours might be the only podcast that I've listened to every episode of. Whoa. Which speaks of the fact that you're so relatively new. But yeah, I listen on my walks on the weekend and really love what you guys do on the show. Thank you, Todd. Yeah. We're glad to have you. Yeah, it's a privilege. And for this episode, it's going to be particularly interesting. We're talking about the publishing industry. So we wanted to have Todd on because we thought it would be particularly fascinating to listeners to get a little insight info from someone who's kind of experiencing the result of the acquisition firsthand. So before we get into what the episode's on today, a couple of administrative things. First one, please leave us a rating and a review on iTunes. It is tremendously helpful for the future of the show as we invest in better tech. And we get more and more guests on. And we're able to do more things with the show. Appreciate you doing that and doing any sort of sharing on social media that you feel is appropriate. Secondarily, we started a Slack community. And we've seen some really great uptake in that. So yeah, it's been really fun to chat with all you guys. And please would love more people to join, but for people who are already in, keep the questions and discussion coming. It's been great. Yeah. And we've got some email asking, well, how do I join? It's on the acquired website. If you're on desktop, it's a little widget on the right side. You just enter your email and then it emails you had to do it. And if you are on mobile, it is down below the posts. Our presenting sponsor for this episode is not a sponsor, but another podcast that we love and want to recommend called the Founders podcast. We have seen dozens of tweets that say something like my favorite podcast is acquired and Founders. So we knew there's a natural fit. We know the host of Founders. Well, David Senra, hi, David. Hey, Ben. Hey, David. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for having me. I like how they group us together. And then they say it's like the best curriculum for Founders and Executives. It really is. We use your show for research a lot. I listened to your episode of the story of Akiyama Rita before we did our Sony episodes this incredible primer. You know, he's actually a good example of why people listen to Founders until acquired because all of history's greatest entrepreneurs and investors, they had deep historical knowledge about the work that came before them. So like the founder of Sony, who did he influence? Steve Jobs talked about him over and over again if you do the research to him. But I think this is one of the reasons why people love both of our shows. And there's such good compliments. It's not acquired. We focus on company histories. You tell the histories of the individual people. You're the people version of acquired and where the company version of Founders. Listeners, the other fun thing to note is David will hit a topic from a bunch of different angles. So I just listened to an episode on Edwin Land from a biography that David did. David, it was the third, fourth time you've done Polaroid. I've read five biographies of Edwin Land and I think I've made eight episodes of them. Because in my opinion, the greatest entrepreneur to ever do it, my favorite entrepreneur personally, is Steve Jobs. And if you go back and listen to like a 20 year old Steve Jobs, he's talking about Edwin Land's my hero. So the reason I did that is because I want to find out like I have my heroes, who were their heroes? And the beauty of this is the people may die, but the ideas never do. And so Edwin Land had passed away way before the apex of Apple. But Steve was still able to use those ideas and now he's gone and we can use those ideas. And so I think what acquired is doing what Founders trying to do as well is find the best ideas in history and push them down to generations. Make sure they're not lost history. Love that. Well listeners, go check out the Founders podcast after this episode. You can search for it in any podcast player. Lots of companies that David covers that we have yet to dive into here on acquired. So for more indulgence on companies and founders, go check it out. So without further ado, our episode this week is on Facebook's acquisition of push pop press. Try that, try it, bleh. Say that five times fast. David, do you want to dive in with the history and facts? As always. So very interesting one here. The company, as Ben mentioned, is push pop press, which not many people have heard of. But it was founded in February 2010 by two guys, Mike Matas and Camone. I'm probably going to butcher his last name, Sinceris, I believe. And they were both alums of Apple. And they had been one a designer and one an engineer at Apple for about four or five years. And they had worked on the iPhone in the years leading up to the launch. Yeah. And as a total Apple nerd, these guys are legendary. I mean, you look at their portfolios. They've designed everything from the charging battery icon on the front of the iPhone for the first six software releases to maps on the map. And Ben, you're stealing my thunder here. Sorry, sorry. Sorry, I'm having my note. So yeah, these guys, they weren't just any Apple engineers and designers. Between the two of them, they designed the first versions of the camera app, the photos app, the maps app, the settings app, the battery display, the photos app for the iPad and time machine and photo booth for the Mac. Well, I should stop doing anything from memory ever. Yes. Quite, quite impressive guys. And interestingly, while they were working on PushPot Press, which was only for about two years, Mike was also working on the side. I don't know which was the side gig and which was the permanent gig. But he was one of the first people working on Nest. And nobody knew what Nest was at this point. But they were the secretive startup from former Apple folks and Mike was also part of that team. He was. And Mike's had his hands in really great software for a long time. He's for the Seattleite listeners out there, it's actually a native Seattleite, and worked on some really incredible Mac software that is pixel perfect, called Delicious Library, from Delicious Monster, with Will Shipley. And that, you know, as I, you know, yet again, Apple Nerd and admire of great software is really kind of setting the bar for creating great UX. And one of the greatest startup names ever, right? What's your monster, yes? Indeed. So we have these two superstar engineers and designers from Apple. They leave they start PushPot Press. What is PushPot Press? One might ask. So at Ted, at the Ted conference in spring of 2011, they unveil at the conference what they've been working on. And it was an attempt to reimagine the book. What does the book look like on a mobile computer, both tablets and phones, smartphones? And the first book that they launched was in conjunction with Al Gore, who interestingly was an Apple board member, and also at the time, I believe, still affiliated with the venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins, which was an investor in Nest. And they worked with him to launch his book called Our Choice, which was about the environment. And it was an incredibly beautiful app. It was released as an app within the Apple App Store. It was only on iOS. And the technology behind it that PushPot Press created enabled highly, highly immersive interactions with, again, really a reimagining of what a book was with interactive content, with audio, with video, all seamlessly integrated into this experience. Yeah. And one of the things to note about that was it's still not an easy thing to imagine a really immersive, beautiful, perfect animation curve application like this. That alone is hard. The engineering, especially on those real early iOS devices, particularly difficult. And these were the two guys in the world that could build that envision that incredible experience. And then we're talking early iPads and iPhone 4s time frame. And actually, interestingly, now we can't verify this confirmed or deny. But it has been reported in the press that this actually might have gotten into them into a little bit of trouble. Because apparently, again, according to some articles out there, we don't know if this is true or not. But apparently Steve Jobs noticed when these guys left and noticed what they were working on. And he believed that a lot of the technology that they used to build PushPot Press was actually alarmingly similar to some of the patented technology that they had developed while they were at Apple working on iBooks. So he, again, supposedly got a little upset about this. Good thing there's no non-compete provisions in California, right? Yes, exactly. Exactly. Well, this was actually an IP issue. This was a patent issue, supposedly. So this was after they launched it head in 2011. And then interestingly, at WWDC that year in June, not everybody at Apple was too upset because our choice in PushPot Press actually won an Apple Design Award for the iPad as being one of the best designed apps, according to Apple, on the iPad that year. But nonetheless, very shortly thereafter in the beginning of August of 2011, Facebook announced that they have acquired PushPot Press for an undisclosed amount. And again, supposedly, according to these articles, the fact that jobs was kind of on the warpath about this and upset about some of the potential IP violations regarding books and apps might have contributed to the outcome here and not continuing to go along as a standalone company. No way for us to know. Interesting hypothesis. I never took it there before. A note on this acquisition, I think it's safe to assume that it's a pretty small sum, not a big team, very early stage. But what it did represent, I remember thinking this at the time, I bought the book. It was incredible to play with. Had great reverence for the technology behind it. And I was thinking, man, Facebook just keeps buying up and sort of, we don't know if this was an aquahire, but had done several acquisitions before of teams that were just incredible iOS designers and developers. And I was like, they really have a war chest there. And thinking back to that time period, I mean, this was still a great state of flux for Facebook in the mobile era. They were doing the hybrid web thing. They hadn't managed to translate there. The Facebook apps were not native on iPhone and Android. They were doing the wrapper development. It was a mess. Right. And their mobile future was uncertain with their ad revenues. They hadn't translated their cash cow from desktop yet. And as we know, they were becoming incredibly successful with the newsfeed ad. It's one of the best ad units in history. But you're right. There were times back then, or I believe, I don't know if they were public or not at this point, but there were big questions about whether they could translate their success into mobile apps. And into this was more general. This was more general. There was an infamous recode interview at the recode conference. Or this might have been before we could probably was Becca Dalton's D-top. The All Things D-top. Was this the hoodie? Yeah, the hoodie where Mark Zuckerberg was being grilled on stage while Moss breaking Kara Swisher had a hoodie on. And he was sweating. And he was being grilled about mobile in Facebook's missing of mobile. And he ended up taking the hoodie off. And then it had that like that Elon Musk. There was something inside of it. It was a very cool, very interesting moment. But others have speculated that that was, that moment was the turning point when he realized that Facebook needed to go all in on mobile. And they really did after that. Yeah. And this acquisition was part of it. Now interestingly, then we'll wrap up the history and facts here. As Ben mentioned, we don't know the price of the acquisition. We have to assume it was quite small. Pushpot Press had never raised any money. It was just the two of them and a couple other people who were working on it. But when they were acquired, the founders actually wrote on the website on their blog that they were, this was just about them and the technology. They were not going to continue in the book industry. They wrote, although Facebook isn't planning to start publishing digital books, the ideas and technology behind Pushpot Press will be integrated with Facebook, giving people even richer ways to share their stories. With millions of people publishing to Facebook every day, we think it's going to be a great home for Pushpot Press. Cough, publishing cough. Cough, publishing, not books. Yeah. Interesting. So yeah, let's get into it. I mean, just to wrap it up quickly. So then the team goes, the two of them go on and they work on two things that they're still working on at Facebook. First is Facebook paper, which many people don't remember. But this is a standalone app that Facebook launched in early 2014. That's basically a flip board competitor. Yeah. And if you look at this, this was the first thing I think it might have been conditional upon the acquisition. But Mike Madis got to run Facebook Creative Labs. And this was kind of the product to launch out of Creative Labs. And the animations and the sensibilities from Pushpot Press's book are just like right there in paper. I mean, the whole immersive design philosophy, very smooth curves between things, you can tell it's the same team. And although paper, it still exists. You can still download it in the app store. It's only on iOS, much like Pushpot Press. It hasn't been a huge success, but it informs the real, it was the Trojan horse to the real meat here is that this Pushpot Press becomes and these guys are the product leaders of Facebook instant articles. Yeah. And I think Mike was and recently left, but Kimon, not exactly sure what I pronounced that is still there. Mike, what are you doing now if I call us? So I follow him on Instagram. He's like a tremendous nature photographer. And he's doing a lot of traveling. I think he's taken some time. I'm sure well deserved. But instant articles is really, I'm sure many of our listeners know about it, but this is really game changing product that Facebook launched last year. And it was interestingly, I'm sure you'll appreciate this. The fact that they were working on it was scooped by David Carr at The New York Times at the fall of 2014. And then it ends up coming out in spring of 2015. And I believe the opening line of his article where he talks about this is that Facebook is like a big dog in the park that is galloping at you. And you don't know if it wants to play with you or eat you. Oh, yeah, that is so perfect. So perfect. If you were a publisher. Exactly, exactly. Boy, I'm in the park, man. Yeah. You guys are in the park. We are. So in preparation for this, I spent quite a bit of time with our analytics just getting a sense for what we get from Facebook, what we give to Facebook. We get roughly 10% of our traffic from Facebook. And is it the largest single? It's the largest. It's other than organic search. Yep. So if you look at organic search, it's close to half. But in terms of actual dedicated inbound refers. So it's quite a bit of traffic. Now, in the old school publishing mentality, publishers would think, I've got to get users on my site. That is where I'm converting them into potential e-commerce customers, or I'm getting them on my own list. Exactly. And I think Instant Articles is one of the best examples of that mentality shifting for publishers that are a little more progressive. And we should say word to about what it is for people who haven't really done into the product. This is a major change in the way content and articles that is owned and written by publishers is being distributed. So before Instant Articles, if somebody shared a link to an article on Facebook and you clicked on it on mobile, you would be taken to the mobile browser and read the article on the page. It's top of saying it. The publishers page. But with Instant Articles, publishers are actually giving their content over to Facebook. It's being hosted on Facebook servers and then displayed in a very push pop press like beautiful immersive reader that loads instantly, rather than clicking through to the mobile web and waiting for everything to load. And even more importantly, for this discussion, Facebook can sell and serve its own advertising within the article. Now, publishers can too. But if publishers sell the ads in the article, they keep 100% of the revenue. But Facebook can also sell in and then they keep 30% of the revenue. Yeah. And to put some numbers behind how much faster it is, they say an average web page article takes about eight seconds to load. And people just bounce off that tremendous amount. They click on the mobile. Yeah. And they say it's 10 times faster in an Instant Article. Yeah, I can't count the number of times when I've gone, this is not worth it. I'm going back and finding something else to read. So I think that whole construct and that assertion of theirs is very valid based on just casual everyday user experience. But this is a mentality shift for publishers because you've got so many readers on Facebook already and the old school mentality is, hey, we need to get them on our site. But when you start talking about the monetization, that's when it starts to go, OK, well, to go back to your dog park analogy, maybe I'll let Facebook, I don't know. I don't want to say my face. Yeah, exactly. That's much better than what I was going to say. Thank you. So yeah, I mean, that is the thing. We've actually experimented with Instant Articles a little bit. And I should say this is part of a sort of broader set of these types of approaches. Google has accelerated mobile pages very similar. We've actually had a lot more success with AMP than we have with Instant Articles. Apple news, of course, and then Flipboard. All these things are examples of publishers saying, OK, the articles don't need to be on our site. But what do we get in return for allowing you to host them? And really, for us, it's the monetization. With Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News, we have not yet seen the kind of user base that would justify putting a lot of effort into it. And because the revenue just isn't there yet, Google is actually a bit of an exception because they're so integrated with DFP, DoubleClick for publishers. And it's our native system. Google gets it. So in that way, I think Google may have a bit of an advantage in terms of the monetization and then in attracting publishers in this whole Instant Article world. So that's our view. Even though Facebook probably has a significant advantage in terms of traffic. Exactly. Yes. Google has a much better monetization tools for you. Yes, for us as a publisher. But there's no denying the reality of Facebook's user base. I'm curious, how do you and John think about this? We were talking before we started about old web publishers, Tyler worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer. I worked at the Wall Street Journal back in the day. And the cost structure at the journal, we spent a billion dollars every year on everything putting out the paper and creating the website and all this. And it was all about creating that relationship with the reader. And now we live in a different world. How did it? Yeah, it's definitely changed. We talk about our publishing process. Just as an example, we'll publish a story on WordPress and then every reporter for us. The next step is to go to Facebook. And you're really not done publishing until you've published a link on Facebook. And so obviously Instant Articles takes that a step further because it's just automatically populating that with the cashed version, the pushpot press version, essentially. So you think of your readers in a much broader way than just the people who are on your site. You think about other things too. We've been experimenting a lot with retargeting and the whole notion of once a reader leaves your site, you can still serve them ads from yourself for our events, for example, or for your advertisers on behalf of your advertisers on Facebook. So we think about it as it's much more holistic now. And in that way, Facebook has broadened their horizons. They've taken away the audience, but they've also opened the door for you to get there. Well, it used to be, I mean, every publisher large and small had their own ad sales force. And that was where a huge part of the cost at the journal in elsewhere were. But the ability to sell that audience was so limited relative to a Facebook. And so now you live in a world where it probably doesn't really make sense for you for it as a publisher to invest a lot in your own ads. If you can just click a button. You come up with a few people back at the office or you're going to be listening very intently there. So we have a strong, not to have a, not to have, I mean, we had hundreds of ad sales at the, but I'm sure you guys don't have hundreds of ad sales. We have three. We have three. And the advantage there, obviously, is that in terms of direct sales, you can provide more value, you can provide custom packages, you can bundle in events. And so your margins are higher than just going through some kind of network buy. So for us at least at our size, there's still a big value in having direct sales. Not to mention you actually know what experience is being delivered to your reader. I mean, you don't have to hope and pray that some network isn't serving a thing that you want next year content. Oh, that's absolutely right. Yeah. So that is the control issue is something there. And that's all about just making sure you're delivering the right value to the reader and to the sponsor. Yeah. For accelerated mobile pages for Google and for Facebook, Facebook, Instant Articles, do you guys do your own ad sales or do you trust the, do you hand that off to them and take the 30% cut? We've only done a little testing with Instant Articles and actually it's a whole other issue. We've run into a problem with the plugin created by Facebook and automatic, the creator of WordPress. And this is, like I said, this could be a rat hole. So you can edit this out later, but they need, they have some work to do on that plugin. And so we haven't been able to fully test that. And that's the plugin that theoretically makes it easier for publishers that Facebook can go in and automatically suck out your content and then put it into an Instant Article without you doing a whole lot of work. That's right, exactly. For Google accelerated mobile pages, just because of the extension from DFP, all of our ads can go there. So if we direct sold an ad that appears on the site, it can go into Instant Art. Or you can go into AMP and accelerate mobile pages. Wow, huge advantage to Google on that. Yes, absolutely. As a consumer and a reader, I'm much more a fan of Facebook and Instant Articles because you get this experience where I'm in a native experience. It's already downloaded all the content for the article and I just go right into it. And on mobile pages, it's always, whenever you're on a website, you're keenly aware that you're on a website and it's not quite native. And so whenever, for those of you who haven't or don't know if you've hit an accelerated mobile page yet, it's when you search for something on Google and there's a result that's for a new story that sort of keeps you on the search results page, but there's an article overlaid on top of it. And I'm always a little disappointed. Like, yeah, it's a lighter website and it's accelerated. But it's still kind of a web page and it would be nicer if it was more native. It's a pop press experience. So it's interesting to see it to hear it leg up. Let's definitely want to keep this conversation going. But let's move into acquisition category. So. So even before you read their press release, I said that it's primarily a people acquisition, secondarily, a technology acquisition. And sure, sounds like we're an agreement there. Well, I had primarily technology, secondarily people, but hey, it's all semantics. Yeah, I'd have a hard time disagreeing with that. My question is, what were they doing between 2011 and 2016? If it was a talent acquisition or a technology acquisition, it took them a while. I guess it was 2015 that they came out with instant articles. But I think paper, I think for a while, they were kind of playing around with what is the thing that we're going to build. And that was sort of why Creative Labs was its own little entity in Facebook before paper came out. But I think the team for paper actually got pretty large and it was a sizable effort where, I don't know the exact quote, but I remember Zuckerberg announcing it and saying, this is a new direction for Facebook. This is the new way you experience Facebook. And obviously it was right. It just ended up becoming within the Facebook app. Yeah, yeah. What I think was interesting, the other thing is that, but like we were saying earlier, the core Facebook app was such a mess in those early days. I think it's amazing how much functionality has been brought back into that app and how big that piece of software has become. Yeah. Yeah. You want to go to what would have happened otherwise? Yeah. I think this merits an interesting detour. Let's say they'd state independent and continue trying to reinvent the book. Good idea, bad idea. How does that play out? There's no way they don't get picked up. And if it's not Facebook, it's someone else. But we'll all suspend that. I think they're so good and it's so inexpensive when they've built it so interesting to so many players that I don't think this scenario exists. But let's go down to what would have happened if they had reinvented the book. You know what I mean? Well, I was on their competing with Amazon. And they're getting sued by Steve Jobs. Maybe. Yeah. I mean, it's interesting. It would have required, for that to really work as a business, it would have required content producers to embrace a, like writers, authors, to embrace a whole new way of a whole new medium, basically. And what's interesting about that versus what it became with instant articles is the authors of content, publishers don't do anything different. It just Facebook sort of, you know, does its magic and makes it look beautiful. And they can. Facebook wants you to. There's all these kind of unique things that you can do with data visualization and parallaxing images and things like that. But you don't have to. No. Yeah. And I think probably very few. It's flashy when publishers do, but they probably don't do a lot of it. Probably hard to justify the ROI on this. Yeah, whereas you would have to create a massive behavior change in terms of producers to really reinvent the book. So likely it would have been hard. One way we could see that proxy for that playing out is with I-books author. Apple came out with that software to create textbooks. And it's supposed to be exactly the same thing, like, you know, things that move, things that slide, interactive ways of learning. And when they announced it on stage, you know, I was thinking like, this is really going to require some serious things that Apple is not necessarily good at. Like, they're going to need a lot of sales people, a lot of relationship managers, like, really to go and convince the five major textbook publishers, Pearson, and then the likes of them that, like, this is their future. Yeah. And I just don't think they doubled down on that. Yeah, it didn't work. Yeah, it seems like the other natural acquireer here would have been Amazon. Am I off base on that? I mean, just given the book's angle. Yeah, sure, seems like it. For Barnes and Noble, maybe, if they were back in, because in 2011, you know, they were still sort of in the game. Yeah. Yeah. That is cool to think about. What if Kindle were beautiful? No, it's anyone working on Kindle. But it's gotten a lot better. It has gotten a lot better. I love Kindle. It's probably one of my most used apps and devices. I use both the app and the device. And the Oasis is pretty darn sweet. Do you have one? I've used one. Yeah. This is a lot. I would love to get one, but I just can't justify, like, $300 for it. And of course, eating is a whole different game than what we're talking about here. But yeah, there's still lots of room for improvement in the whole digital ebook. Yes, lots of room. I do want to raise the point, too. I think they had the luxury of being super, super selective of if they were going to get acquired, who it was going to be by. They strike me as the kind of people that if they didn't have a tremendous respect for the company and didn't feel that their principles of design and beautiful experience were embodied in the efforts of whatever that company was trying to do, I don't think they would have gone. So I think that narrowed them. I mean, they hadn't raised any money. So there were no evil VCs on the board forcing them to sell. But yeah, I think you're probably right. And not to mention that Mike, I think, was working on the side or full-time ennest. So this was not a forced sale by any means. No. All right, let's jump back into tech themes because I think we can really unpack some cool stuff with Todd here. What are you go first? Yeah, this really does speak to the broadening horizons for publishers and the risks and opportunities that come along with that. I mean, this is, I think a lot of, I've been around since the days when I had one daily deadline for one story that needed to get to the printing press by 11 at night. So not to date myself here. But I remember those days too, from 2009 at the Wall Street Journal. So it was not that long ago. So I think you've gone through a few transitions there for publishers, first obviously to the web and then to mobile. And now in some ways, you're seeing a fourth transition to beyond your own property. What needs to happen? What can you do? Who can you reach and how can you monetize it? And that really is the big thing for me here. Yeah, so Todd, I've had a crazy idea for a start up for a while. And this is a perfect time to poke holes in it. Could you start a publisher at this point that doesn't have a website that purely exists on social? It's only on AMP. It's only on Instagram. Well, one might argue this is what Buzzfeed is, but. Yeah, they have a destination site. I'm curious how much their destination versus social. I think you could, and I think you should. And that would be fantastic. I think you should do everything but a website. So in other words, publish on Facebook. The Verge has been talking about this. And I know that I think their new gadget blog is focused almost exclusively on Facebook. And I think it's the Verge. I get all those. The Verge and Engage and Gizmo, they blend together in my mind after I read their stories. I'm a big rich fan. It is the Verge, right? Did the gadget blog just on Facebook? I'm sure they're the most nice for me on that one. David, I'm a big geek wire fan. I don't think the Verge and Giguire are competitors. Yes, I'm a big geek wire fan. But it's interesting. One of my themes was, hinting at earlier, is this sort of re-imagine of the publishing industry. I'm curious how you guys at Giguire. I mean, you're such a, you are a news site, of course, very first and foremost. But there's so much more to what you do. You're a community. And how do you think about life in your business model in this world? Absolutely. So I can sure a few broad details. So about roughly 60% of our revenue has nothing to do with the website. And it's not because it's coming from Facebook or anything else. It doesn't have, it's probably not accurate to say it has nothing to do with the website. But we get event revenue. I mean, that is a major driver of our business. You were saying your ad sales efforts aren't focused on a holistic package, right? You're getting ad units on the site, but you're also getting sponsorship set events. And you're offering something beyond just a website. The way we look at it is that our news brings people to the site. And then we create a community around that news. And then the question is, OK, you've got this great community. How can you provide value to that community and to the people who want to reach it? And if you think about it in that abstract way, then all these really interesting possibilities come up. If you just think about it as, I've got people coming to my website and I want to serve them ads, then it's too simplistic and it's a decade to go mentality. So this is all part of that broader revolution and how publishers think. In thinking about instant articles, some of the bigger publishers that have this sort of a trained behavior of a whole city going to their website every morning, much like they used to read the paper at their dining room table every morning. And they worry about doing something like this because it untrains that habitual behavior of going to the site. Do you guys worry at all about sort of losing that? Oh, they're not used to going to Geekwire anymore? Certainly there's a core set of your readers who will always do that. But so much anymore, the front door of your website is not your home page. It's an article that somebody comes into. And when we think about the design of the site, we think about that. This is really the place that people are coming to. So and that's driven by social. It's the fact that people are getting a link off a Twitter, off a Facebook, and they're coming into your site through the back door. That's the phenomenon that I know I subscribe to. I'm sure probably we all do it many of our listeners. So I don't go to the news anymore. The news comes to me. Right. So if you're not playing in all that entire ecosystem, then you've got to, you're taking a big risk. And there are some people who can do it successfully. And there's a great biotech site in Seattle, run by a guy named Luke Timmerman. And he does $99 a year subscriptions and is built a successful one-man business out of it. So there's different approaches. But for the most part, if you're going to be a holistic publisher in this world, you've got to play in all this stuff. It's interesting. So I was going to bring up one of the tech trends that identifies to me as sort of the corporate unbundling away from core competency, where you can decide to take a dependency on a different business for something that you're deciding is not the thing that is unique and differentiating to you. And so one thing that I'll bring up here is Ben Thompson has a great theory of- I was wondering how long we would go in this episode before we reference. Time to strategy in this episode is 32 minutes. Actually, I don't know what Mark will be. But he is a great theory about, OK, I can be a one-man independent publisher because I have this very sustainable business model where people pay me directly. And I know that I'm not a destination site. So I need to run extremely lean because I only have this very specific business model that allows me to do that. And then on the other side of the continuum, you have the New York Times. And they can afford to do all things for all people because they have just all eyes on them. The first thing that people check, I mean, there are very few of those who have survived the Facebookization of the front door of the internet. And it's interesting to see how publishers in the middle play with that. And I think Todd, you raised a great point that you have to embrace that it's the world around our publication. I just look, pulled up our analytics to maybe shed some light on this. So about 45% of our inbound traffic is from organic search. About 22% is from social. All forms of social. I'm sorry, 22% is from direct. And then about 18% is from social. So you get a sense for it. We still have a pretty good direct audience there. But that's actually crazy to me that organic search is still by far the largest. It is. I don't know. That may speak to quirks of our audience or our site. And I don't know that that's the case for everybody. And that does not include direct. That does not include out. Yeah, that's organic search. That's the testament to the Omni bar right there. I mean, I think as much as we're, yeah, yeah, yeah, good point. We're like, the Google is serving ads on that. Wow. Well, it does go by some Google shares right now. Nobody knows the difference. We do not dispense investment, investment, advice on this show. We should probably be legally bound to say that more often. But we, you know, it's a, most people don't know the difference between, you know, typing in words and typing into URL. Yeah. And so they're going to the internet. They're typing in the words. And if Geekwire is the first thing that comes up with the information about they're looking for, they hit it. Right. And, you know, it's interesting only that, well, then the interesting nuance there to me is that more people are being active about the news that they choose to learn about rather than reactive to whatever comes up in their Facebook feed. Right. I don't think I was giving people enough credit. Yeah. And like I said, we may not be representative of the broader trends out there. There are some quirks in our business. Still, it's fascinating. Yeah. But you, would it be fair to say that you guys at least have reimagined your product from being journalism to being a community or like that journalism is the wrong way. But from being a new site, being a community. I'd say it's still at its core, a new site. And that's the thing. When you look at the drivers of the business, then, you know, doing quality news, trying to break news, that really is your ultimate competitive advantage. And that gets to what you're talking about, then it's like focus on your core competencies. Yeah. Developing a social network is not, you know, my core competency. I was trained as a journalist and most of the folks at the company were. And so that really gets to what you're saying there. Yeah. And I think I should just say like, you guys do a really amazing job with that. Yeah, we should say too. Yeah, we are both big fans. Oh, thanks. Geekwire is, I'm sure for all of our listeners in Seattle are already fans. But for people who are not in Seattle, you probably also have heard of Geekwire. But it is a fantastic technology news site. And I think, especially speaking at Madrid, and as of BC here in the Seattle community, just a linchpin of the whole technology community in the Northwest. Thanks. Well, and I should say, only 30% of our traffic is Washington state. So Washington state is our largest individual market, but it's not the majority of our traffic. It speaks to a couple of things. First, there's intense interest in what's going on here from other parts of the world. Yeah. But we founded the site on the premise that Seattle and the Pacific Northwest deserve a national and international technology news site of their own, and so the traffic kind of bears that out. That's my stump speech. That's my elevator pitch. I'll be on a future episode. I'll be on episode 150 of acquired, the acquisition of Geekwire. Yeah, the acquisition of Geekwire. Washington has as largest single geography, but not a majority, you and acquired both. There you go, nice, awesome. Perfect. We're basically the, we can do, we can do, I'm merging now. We'll talk after. So we'll talk after, yeah. That's not on the record. So yeah, and the other, we've covered great tech themes here. The other one I wanted to bring up quickly is Ben Thompson, his aggregation theory, which we've talked about also on this show before, but basically is the theory that in the past, and it's represented nowhere better than publishing in journalism, where in the past, you needed to aggregate distribution. As a distributor, you needed to aggregate, you needed to aggregate journalists, and you needed to aggregate delivery routes of newspapers and all this. Everything basically looking backwards from the customer. You didn't really care about the customer, the customer needed to come to you. In the internet world, you need to aggregate the customers, and then all of the producers will come to you. And this is what's happened with Facebook here, with Princeton articles. They cater to the customers. They care about the user experience. They care about making it beautiful, which is why they acquired push-pops press, so that the customers come to them. The customers are their customer, the readers, and then the producers come to them, which is, I just think, super, super interesting. No, that's great. I had never thought about it that way. That's true. It's completely true. And that's why Facebook has so much power. I mean, if you watch just the casual person pick up their phone, the chances that they're going to open the Facebook app first are so high. Incredible. They decide what you're going to be entertained by. And that is a tremendous sore deal. And informed by which is the whole issue that's come up recently with the issue with the Facebook trending stories. Yeah, that's an interesting thing. Should we touch on that a little bit? Yeah, go ahead. Yeah, so for listeners who haven't been tracking, there was basically, there are mixed feelings about how true it is. But basically, not in the newsfeed itself, but in the little trending news widget on desktop and the top right or on mobile when you tap into an empty search field, you see hand curated top news that Facebook thinks you would be interested in. And the news story that basically alleges that they had talked to someone who used to work on that team and they said it was anti-conservative. And the blow-up from that has been unbelievable. And the interesting takeaways, boy, if the blow-up from that little thing has been that big, that little thing that half of you probably haven't even seen, and most of you probably have never clicked on, people give Facebook a tremendous amount of credit for having this like agnostic algorithm. So can you imagine if they were doing anything in the newsfeed algorithm to tilt one way or another? I mean, they're viewed as like this arbiter of the truth and there's this pure, clean algorithm that decides what you look at. And I think that trust that they've instilled in people is powerful. Because that has emerged though in the past month. We'll see what happens. I think very, very dangerous for them. But it speaks to their power and it speaks to that whole flipping of you aggregate the users. You aggregate as long as users are coming every day to Facebook as a producer, as a publisher, you have to be there. Yeah, absolutely. This gets right back to what we said last episode that their crown jewels are engagement. And it's engagement and time on site. And just how much of your life you're giving to Facebook. And that's the power that they wield. And interesting to contrast that with Snapchat too from the last episode, which is they've said, we're not going to, we're not funky algorithms. We're not tracking you or not anything. We're like, you watch the stories you want to watch. And you follow the people you want to follow. And it's hard to discover things on Snapchat. Interesting. It is. All right. Should we move on to conclusion? Grading. Yeah. Yeah. This is an easy A for me. I mean, I think that they really couldn't have done any wrong. I don't think that this acquisition necessarily made it so that they were going to go this direction. I think that this is doing something like Instant Articles is a natural course. And they would have done it maybe just slightly less beautifully. But I think great people to pick up. They were great leaders at Facebook. Just talking to friends that worked with Mike. And I think that only good things. Yeah. I agree. I'm just thinking, I think you're right, though. If they hadn't acquired Push Pop Press, they would have done this anyway. It just would have been less beautiful. So in that sense, it was probably really a great acquisition for them. I don't think they spent that much. I mean, we don't know, but they probably didn't. Yeah. I give it an A to. I think what's holding me, what's nagging at me is there is an element of creepiness to Instant to Facebook as we were talking about this crack that's emerged one. And two, could there have been something bigger that Push Pop Press could have been? I don't know. This was a great buy for Facebook. No doubt. Do you mean within Facebook? Because I know not necessarily. I think we typically to lay out the criteria for how we grade these. It's usually imagining that you are a shareholder of the acquirer. The acquirer. I don't know what else they would have done within Facebook, but it would have been great. So yeah, but I feel like Todd's got some. Well, what was the thing, did you say it was paper that they worked on? What was the inside for? Yes, inside for. I mean, it shouldn't have been, if that had been like a runaway yet, then it shouldn't have been an A. I don't know. I didn't have the plus. Okay. Yeah. So I'll give it a B plus. I'll reserve the right to move that to an A if they fix the damn plug in. Do I just think that's the way? I guess you've had the explicit language warning there just now. No, I know. Okay, I can say damn. All right, good. Yeah. And it's interesting that the only thing that I think could lower at your A's and interesting point is is this a strategically good idea for Facebook? Like should they be visits so hard on news and not just what you would discover that already lives on Facebook? I think it was brilliant. It's just totally. I mean, the whole notion that they become the platform and they hosted, they served it up. They're in control from Facebook's perspective. It's hard to see how it's bad. So if Facebook's goal is engagement and they want to keep you in the Facebook experience and ecosystem longer and they really want to be the internet to you, we've seen social. We've seen publishing. What's next? What else lives within Facebook that's not currently within Facebook that will be the next instant articles? Well, it lives that they're investing hugely in. Television. Of course, they did this with games for a while. It'd be interesting to see if that was reincarnated in a new way, of course, virtual reality. Yep. With Oculus. Yep. Yeah, life is in a whole other topic. We've been experimenting with that too. It's totally changed the way we think about video. Oh, I'm really. Yeah. What it was though. So we've been doing live streaming. And we now have a debate every time. YouTuber Facebook, YouTuber Facebook. And in the past month, the balance has shifted to Facebook because you just see instant engagement. Have you guys tried Periscope or... We tried that a little bit. Yeah, Periscope and... Have you tried Snapchat at all? No. No, Snapchat's one where we're not as advanced as we should be, honestly. And that's part of the problem as a publisher. It's like, where do you put your resources? Yeah. And it's like that there was that ad, the joke, where the two executives are going up the elevator and the two bike messengers are talking about some hot news social matter. Sometimes it can feel like that. Yeah. And you never know exactly when to jump on board. Pinterest is another one where we have not gotten as much traction. Yeah. But live on Facebook has been big for you guys. It has. No, we're not monetizing it yet. Not directly. Is anyone... I'm not sure. I'm not sure if that's an option at this point. Oh. So, I mean, you could, you could hawk products while you're talking live on, but that wouldn't be as part of a Facebook product. And now Facebook's got the whole thing too, where publishers can actually do sponsored content. So they sell the sponsored content, and they've got the, in the Facebook business interface, they've got the little handshake icon. And so that's opened up new options too. So a long way of saying, Facebook is finally starting to make it where it's financially, at least worth exploring as a publisher, versus just putting your stories on there and hoping that you get traffic back. That's the big shift that we've seen. And did you see that? You mentioned that with live video, there's the debate between the two, with pre-recorded video, or you see the same thing, where you're going, yeah, let's put it on Facebook, and not on YouTube. No, we are. And in part, that's because live is just such an interesting thing to do right now. And so we're still very much keyed into YouTube. Although, no, I take that back. We're now posting it on both YouTube and Facebook after the fact. But the reason it's a debate and either or debate is because some of our equipment, you can't simultaneously live broadcast the boat, whereas you can, obviously, later upload to both. Yeah. What is there a particular event, or live event, that you've done that you think is like really an example of the future of? Yeah, so we've been doing tours. So in fact, we did a tour of the Facebook headquarters. Here, it was kind of, it was very meta. And so I joked to Mike Shrepfer, their CTO. I said, yeah, we're going to be trying this out on a little social network you might have heard. And he thought it was actually talking. He didn't get the joke. He thought it was talking about some other, like, Toro Pera Noia. He thought we were streaming it on something he never heard of. I said, no, no, we're doing it on Facebook. We were doing live streaming on the lunch. Yeah. But even just, you know, the quick stuff, you've got your phone. Obviously, that's fully produced. We've got a handheld mic. And we're walking around with him, you know, streaming to a box that goes to Facebook. But just the whole notion of being a reporter or being anybody out there, being able to pull out your phone and immediately broadcast to a giant audience. Now, of course, this has been around for a while with, you know, you stream and those kinds of things. But it gets to your point. Facebook has the user base. And so it changes everything. Yeah. And it has your user base. That's right. Because it's people, presumably, people that are fans of GeekWire on Facebook see this right at the top of their news feed when you're live. Right. Exactly. So yeah, it's changed the dynamic a lot now that, it just seems like there's been a cascade of changes over the past year, basically. Yeah. Yeah. Facebook is investing heavily in all this stuff. They are. Should we get to the carve out? Let's do it. All right. Todd, do you want to go first as our guest? Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So my carve out is actually another podcast. So I love it. And but it touches on themes that you all touch about. And so I'm going to be very specific here. Gimlet Media's startup podcast. Now I'm sure a lot of people watch, listen, listen. Here's what, here's the dynamic that happened with this. A lot of people listened to the first season, which told the story of Alex Bloomberg, the former of this American life reporter, journalist, starting his own company, which was fantastic. And then season two kind of sucked, honestly. Yeah. What did the dating ring shut down? Is that what happened? Yeah. Yeah. I personally didn't, I was not into that episode. That whole season. I had suffered through it. Season three, if you got lost in season two, go back and start again on season three. And I don't want to ruin it, but they do this great. They do a story where they tell the, how can I do this without ruining it for everybody? They tell the story of a startup and its founding and then do a reveal. And they tell you, like, I think it's at the end of the second episode, what the startup is that they've been talking about. And it's one that everybody knows. It's one that you've featured on one of your episodes last fall. Oh. As soon as you start hearing, you'll be like, oh, yeah, I know what company that is. A lot of people out there won't know. Like casual listeners not in the tech industry won't know which company they're talking about. So that's my carve out startup season three, the first couple episodes. God, I love the teaser. I'm like, that's, I am on this foil. This is great. You're a good pitchman. Good, good. I'll go next because it's somewhat related unless you have another podcast. Not, not a podcast. Is your audio auditorially related? Not now, I don't know. OK. OK. So my carve out for the week is something to listen to your podcast on. Super interesting. I read this article on Back Channel, which is part of Medium, which is Medium's tech collection, which is something I guess you will. Oh, channel. That's your name? Yes. And the title of the piece is called, What If the Future of Technology is In Your Ear? And it's about this Bluetooth ear piece that fits in your ear. It looks like a hearing aid. You really can't, you can buy it in a variety of skin tones and you can't tell it's there. And it's made in China by some Chinese company. And you can buy it for $11 on Amazon. I bought it for $11 when the piece was written. It was $13. And it connects your phone via Bluetooth. And you can stream audio to it. You can stream music. You can stream podcasts. You can stream audio books. You can talk to it via Siri. And the article is about the device is kind of janky. But it's amazing for $11. And then you can talk to Siri in your ear. And it's like the movie heard. Like it's that. It's that. And it's $11 on Amazon. The article is really good. And then the device, I listen to all my podcasts and audio books on it now. I want to driving when I'm walking when I'm just in my ear. And nobody knows it's there. It's pretty cool. Wow. Just wait till Siri's good. And then it'll be, yeah. Yeah, right. We're waiting on that iOS 10 maybe. WWDC, Fingers crossed. Mine is an article on Medium by Andy Dunn, the founder of Bonobos, or Bonobos, as I've heard it both ways, called the Risk Not Taken. And it's this really great reflective piece about different points in Andy's life, one when he was starting Bonobos and one event many years earlier, really just about times when he's faced a difficult decision, but already sort of knew the answer. And he calls it a little voice, a little something on his shoulder. And it shows up and he looks over. And he doesn't recognize it at first. And then he realizes, oh, my decision's already made. And I have to go do that thing. And it's a really interesting play out of the two different paths that you could go taking the risk and not taking the risk. And it's really, poetically written, really, really smart guy. And really great for any readers who are sort of looking to try and figure out, should I take the risk, should I not take the risk, or maybe perennially thinking about those things. So that is good. So what's the name of the article again? The Risk Not Taken by Andy Dunn. And that'll be in our show notes or the show description. You can hit the little icon next to this episode and find the link. So before we wrap up, I think we need to talk about this for a minute at the metal level. We just did this episode about Facebook and InstaRacles and Publishing and two of our three car. Well, all of our car vows were media related. And two of them were on Medium. One was a podcast. And these are all new forms of journalism and publishing that are outside the bounds of Facebook, really. And in a lot of ways. For now. For now. For now. But it's interesting that just when you think the walls have closed around the garden, there are flowers springing up outside. Wow, speaking of poetic. OK. All right, before we wrap up here, Todd, where can our listeners find you? Is that simple? Awesome. I'm Todd Bishop on Twitter. Also probably on Facebook. And on Facebook, yes. Big thank you to Todd. This has been awesome. This is really exciting for me. Like I said, I'm a loyal listener. I see the. Are you going to listen to this episode? I'll probably wait a month. That's how I tend to do things. So yeah. No, I really appreciate you having me on. Thank you. Thanks for coming. Thanks for coming. Who got the truth? Is it you? Is it you? Is it you? Who got the truth now? Who?