Benner on Tech: Facebook 'Articles' Take on Snapchat

Katie Benner is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about technology, innovation, and the cult and culture of Silicon Valley. She lives in San Francisco.
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Facebook unveiled (unleashed?) Instant Articles, the new product that lets publishers post interactive articles on the company’s platform that will load much faster, especially on mobile devices.

The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, National Geographic, NBC and the New York Times all provided special content for the product’s launch on Facebook’s iPhone app. Facebook says publishers can track the data and traffic and control the branding. They then keep all of the ad revenue or keep a cut of ad sales if they use Facebook to sell the ad space.

Facebook has incentives to play nice with news organizations. It wants engaging content for its app, and it wants to compete with companies like Snapchat that are trying to become news platforms. Publishers use Twitter to push out stories, too, because Twitter is the place for real-time news. But tweeted story links aren’t nearly as appealing-looking as stories in Instant Articles, and maybe it would be nice for Facebook if it could be thought of as fast and real-time-y too.

This announcement is just the beginning, of course. I’m curious to see what happens if Facebook brings lots of publications onto the platform and knocks out competitors like Snapchat. Then what happens to the rules of engagement between Facebook and the publishers?

Verizon-AOL Madness

Remember when Bloomberg broke news of the Verizon-AOL talks back in January? Alex Sherman and Scott Moritz pretty much nailed it, writing way back then: “Verizon is primarily interested in AOL’s programmatic advertising technology -- the automated buying and selling of ads online -- which could be paired with a future online-video product.”

Today you can read stories herehere and here (and many more places) that expand on this theme. It’s about ad-tech and video.

Amid the deal news, Re/code said AOL was selling off the Huffington Post and that Axel Springer and some private equity firms were interested in the property. Bloomberg noted it’s highly unlikely Verizon would want to run a big media organization.

Just as the Internet was churning out “who would buy HuffPo” stories, Tim Armstrong told TechCrunch (the publication he owns) that rumors of a Huffington sale were completely bogus.

“CEO Tim Armstrong Says AOL Is Staying In The Content Business (And He’s Not Selling TechCrunch),” says TechCrunch.

Also of note: The New York Times examines how this could be another opportunity for AOL to reshape itself. (Remember how badly that transformation attempt turned out last time? If not, I wrote about it here.) The Wall Street Journal says the deal happened because AOL had run out of options, and that any reshaping is being done, essentially, at gun point. And Bloomberg notes that AOL is selling for a fraction of what Facebook paid for WhatsApp, which reflects how messaging technology has evolved over the last 15 years.

The Portable Elon Musk

My great Bloomberg Businessweek colleague Ashlee Vance wrote a book about Elon Musk that you should all read because it’s really goodThe Washington Post highlighted the best quotes from “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” to whet your appetite.

“I would like to allocate more time to dating, though. I need to find a girlfriend. That’s why I need to carve out just a little more time. I think maybe even another five to 10 — how much time does a woman want a week? Maybe 10 hours? That’s kind of the minimum? I don’t know.”

Seinfeld v. Newman

In a highly entertaining New Yorker profile, Marc Andreessen declared his firm Andreessen Horowitz “the anti-Benchmark,” and called the rival firm’s best-known investor, Bill Gurley, the Newman to his Seinfeld. So the research firm CB Insights crunched the numbers and found that Andreessen, indeed, co-invests with Benchmark less than it does with other firms. (Too bad about Uber, Marc …) Here’s the full report.

My Latest Column

Can a Salesforce acquisition solve Oracle's succession problem?


Cyanogen got a strategic investment from the manufacturing giant Foxconn. (Re/code)

DocuSign, a digital document management company, raised $233 million and is now valued at $3 billion. (Wall Street Journal)

Puppet Labs, which makes server-automation software, is planning an IPO for spring of next year. (Bloomberg)

SherpaVentures, the firm that invested early in Uber, Shyp and Munchery, raised a new $175 million venture fund. (TechCrunch)

People and Personnel Moves

Sameer Samat, the head of Google’s commerce business, will become Jawbone’s new president at the end of the month. (Re/code)


Samsung announced all-in-one chip modules called Artik that should help developers build Internet-connected products. (Quartz)

Tesla Motors will soon sell directly to consumers in Maryland now that Governor Larry Hogan has signed a bill that treats manufacturers and distributors of electric cars as auto dealers. (Bloomberg)

Twitter is being used by Domino’s as a way for customers to buy pizza. (USA Today)

Media Files

The AT&T-DirecTV deal is likely to be approved by regulators. (Wall Street Journal)

Branded content probably won’t become a major revenue source because it’s hard to scale, according to Trevor Fellows, the head of global media sales for the Wall Street Journal. (Mumbrella)

Security Watch

Law enforcement can wiretap Google Hangouts. (Motherboard)

News and Notes

Stanford’s endowment sold its Apple stock, which was worth $174.5 million at the end of last year, and cut back on its equity investments overall. (Bloomberg)

Verizon and Sprint will pay $158 million combined -- most of which will be returned to consumers -- to settle investigations into whether the companies made unauthorized charges on customers’ phone bills. (the Verge)

If you look at these yearbook photos you will see that tech titans all once had magnificent hair. (Business Insider)

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the editor on this story:
Maria Lamagna at