Cold Takes

A Very Special Episode of Twitter

(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter — more about it here.)

So, the Debate last night. Content aside, I thought it was an amazing showcase for Twitter. Which is interesting, given that Twitter is apparently thinking about selling itself right now. What great timing for the company.

Watching a debate — especially this debate — is good content by itself. But watching it with Twitter is pure entertainment. And useful. Not only is the snark amazing, but the real-time fact-checking aspect is fantastic. It’s so good that it’s hard to imagine watching a debate without Twitter.

Perhaps this one was better than usual because of the Trump aspect. (Actually, I’m sure of that.) Or perhaps it’s because of the (smart) deal Twitter struck to stream the debate live on their service. But I can’t say enough good things. (Though the tweet + debate stream still leaves much to be desired — this needs to be much more personally curated with either experts and/or people you follow. Right now, it’s just seemingly rando tweets. A fun novelty, but it gets old quickly.)

And when you contrast the situation last night on Twitter with that of Facebook, it’s almost comical. My entire Twitter stream seemed to be actively engaged and interested in the debate. Switching over to Facebook, it was all puppy dogs and ice cream. Literally on the dogs, figuratively on the ice cream. If anything, I think it showcased that Facebook may be too good on the algorithm side. Yes, I normally like puppy dogs and ice cream, but last night was an exception. I wanted to see debate content. It’s hard for algorithms to know this without precedent…

Anyway, as I tweeted last night, I wonder if this makes Facebook think about making a bid for Twitter as well. Probably not. And I’m sure there are a thousand reasons why it ultimately doesn’t make any sort of business sense for them. But if they truly care about live content, as they seem to, Twitter mopped the floor with them last night.

(Disclosure: I hold a small amount of Twitter stock. Though certainly not enough for me to care who they sell to, or if they even sell, honestly.)

Top of Mind

Since we’re on the topic of Twitter, the rumors of a bid by Disney are interesting (gotta stop using that word). Yes, obviously given that fact that both Jack Dorsey (presumably bull) and Sheryl Sandberg (presumably bear) sit on Disney’s board. But also the fact that Disney has been so good at acquisitions of late — certainly under Bob Iger.

Of course, most of those great acquisitions were about IP. Buying Twitter would be quite different than buying Lucasfilm, Marvel, or Pixar. Unless Disney has plans to make an animated franchise out of the Twitter bird (cue the jokes about this being potentially more lucrative than Twitter itself).

The key here may be ESPN. Turn on SportsCenter and count the Twitter references. It’s a ton, every single day. So much of the sports world, including, notably, reporting, now flows through Twitter. And ESPN is Disney’s crown jewel. And as cable continues its slow, long decline, Disney needs to get to work on what’s next for the network. Hence, a huge investment in MLB’s BAMTech. And hence, Twitter? It’s not the craziest idea in the world…

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It was foretold…

5ish Links

Kurt Wagner looks at former Motorola exec Steve Horowitz, the man currently running Snapchat’s hardware team:

Prior to Motorola, Horowitz served as CTO of payments company and served in the product trenches of tech heavyweights Google, Apple and Microsoft. At Apple he worked on early versions of the Mac. At Google, he worked closely with the early Android team and earned a reputation as shrewd and effective, like Android’s then-chief Andy Rubin.”

“Horowitz, a Michigan grad, also has extensive experience in wearables from his days at Motorola, where he led global engineering and worked on, among other things, the company’s smartwatches. But he didn’t like to call them smartwatches, in part because he wanted the product to feel like a watch first, and a computer second.”

“If you want to appeal to a segment beyond the technologists, you have to be able to appeal to the aesthetic,” Horowitz told SlashGear back in 2014. “I think that’s a key thing we focused on.”

First of all, Go Blue. Second, it seems like Horowitz has the exact right mentality when thinking about Snap’s Spectacles. But all of this is easier said than done, of course. And while I guess I didn’t explicitly state it the other day, positioning aside, the key to Spectacles is the fact that Snapchat itself exists. As a brand new piece of hardware, Spectacles, even if they were great, would likely be DOA. But with Snapchat…

The symbiotic nature is everything here…

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An odd looking Trojan Horse…

Andrew Flanagan looks into what went wrong at Rdio:

Rdio has $188.5 million in secured debt and $24.3 million in unsecured debt, along with hundreds of thousands in outstanding tax and payroll bills. As its bankruptcy filing says: ‘Despite the investment of several hundred million dollars and years of efforts to build its subscriber base (and to attract meaningful advertising dollars), the Debtor [that’s Rdio] was unable to achieve profitability — or even to reduce its operating losses to tolerable levels.’

Just in case it wasn’t abundantly clear before, the music business is very hard.

The music business is very hard, but making $10B — $15B in profit a quarter helps… (At the very least, helps you forget how hard it is.)

One tidbit from Reggie Ugwu on how Apple Music’s machine curation works:

If you gave high ratings to a song or album in your old iTunes library, or just played it a lot more than others, you’ll find that behavior reflected in your My Favorites Mix. Meanwhile, the My New Music Mix algorithm serves recently released songs — as well as songs that Apple Music knows you haven’t played before — that the service’s music experts have flagged as similar to others in your taste profile. Apple Music executives suggested even more personalized playlists will follow in the series; but only after prototypes have been thoroughly vetted, with all conceivable outcomes given careful consideration.

Did not realize this, but make sense. And I, like a lot of people, have a lot of music history in iTunes…

Tyler Kepner:

But what Dee Gordon did on Monday night, as the Marlins’ leadoff hitter in their first game without their heartbeat, was one of those uplifting moments that make us care about sports.

Gordon, a left-handed hitter, got into the batter’s box as a righty, the side from which Fernandez hit. He took one pitch from that side, switched helmets, took another pitch, and then belted a fly ball high over right field.

It soared above a black scoreboard showing Fernandez’s number, 16, the number every Marlin wore on his back on Monday, the number no Marlin will ever wear again. It landed in the second deck for a home run, the first in more than 300 at-bats this season for Gordon.

“First swing he took, and that’s the first ball he ever hit into the upper deck,” said the Marlins’ Christian Yelich. “If that doesn’t tell you something, I don’t know what does.”

Teammates pounded the dugout railing with their hands, the way Fernandez used to celebrate, as Gordon circled the bases in tears. He pointed skyward after crossing the plate, nearly collapsing into the arms of his teammates, tears flowing into their Fernandez jerseys.

Incredible. Goosebumps incredible.

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(Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter.)

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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