Benner on Tech: Vox Buys Re/code, IRS Is Hacked

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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If you’re a dedicated reader of tech news (why else would you read this newsletter?) then you will be interested to know that Re/code, the news website founded by tech journalist luminaries Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, has been sold to Vox Media. The deal news broke during Re/code’s hugely successful Code Conference, a confab with a $6,500 ticket price that draws big names such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra, and the heads of Airbnb, Twitter, GoPro, Snapchat and BuzzFeed.

It was a stark illustration of how hard it is to get a media company off the ground, even one that has a wildly popular and lucrative conference attached to it.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but it was an all-stock deal, meaning that Re/code’s owners got Vox stock. Was it preferred? I hope so. Vox reportedly raised $46.5 million in funding last autumn after reportedly raising about $80 million before that.

In Other Tech Media News

** Gigaom, the tech news site founded by Om Malik, was bought by the startup Knowlingly and could relaunch this summer.

 ** BuzzFeed is booming in San Francisco, where it has created a 17-person bureau to cover technology and lifestyle news. (Business Insider)

IRS Hacked

Hackers stole the personal data of more than 100,000 U.S. taxpayers, such as tax return information, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses. They got the information using the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s own “Get Transcript” service, which requires personal data simply to use the system. The IRS says the system that handles tax filings is secure, but there’s no doubt that hackers who target the government are notching some successes.

More Snapchat

For a CEO who almost never talks to the press, Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel has gotten a lot of attention this week. Soon after Bloomberg’s exclusive with Spiegel landed yesterday, the Information published a lengthy profile of the founder that reflected the same big idea that investors and Spiegel himself are saying about the company: It’s a media play, not a messaging platform. But the Information also dove into the ultra-secretive culture that rules Snapchat, and the story implies that this ultra-secret world (along with a power struggle with Spiegel) drove away Snapchat’s ex-Chief Operating Officer Emily White.

Yesterday Spiegel told attendees at the Code Conference that an IPO roadmap is in the works and that the company wants multiple revenue streams, not just ads, in the long run.

Tech Bling for Fido

The son of China’s richest man bought his dog two gold Apple Watches.


DocuSign raised $45 million from Dell Ventures and Intel Capital. (Wall Street Journal)

SpaceX now has U.S. Air Force certification, so it can compete for military contracts. (Bloomberg)

Uber’s low-cost Uberpop service must shut down in Italy, a Milan court said. (Wall Street Journal)

Unicorns have recently been born at a fast clip, but CB Insights says unicorn exits are scarce. Last year, six venture-backed companies had exited by May. This year, there’s been just one.

People and Personnel Moves

Tim Armstrong, the Chief Executive Officer of AOL, will get a stock package that’s worth 1.5 percent of AOL’s market cap when his company’s merger with Verizon closes. That’s about $59 million at the company’s current value. He also owned about 6.7 percent of AOL’s shares, worth about $280 million, when the deal was announced. (BuzzFeed)


EBay will introduce “Promoted Listings,” which are ads businesses pay for only if they lead to actual sales. (Bloomberg)

EMC is going to buy Virtustream for about $1.2 billion so its clients can run Oracle, Microsoft and SAP products in the cloud. (Bloomberg)

Facebook is adding restaurant reviews on some of the restaurant pages it hosts in a bid to compete with Yelp. (the Verge) Oculus bought the real-time, 3-D scene reconstruction company Surreal Vision.

Microsoft has partnered with manufacturing partners such as LG and Sony to sell Android tablets that run Office, OneDrive and Skype. (VentureBeat)

Twitter’s live-streaming app Periscope is now available on Android devices. (the Verge)

Security Watch

Researchers can monitor Bluetooth signals transmitted by phones and wearables, and even made an Android app that can scan, detect and log wearable devices. (Help Net Security)

News and Notes

Geeknet, the parent company of online retailer ThinkGeek, is being acquired by the teen fashion chain Hot Topic. (Bloomberg)

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