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Hello and welcome back to Equity, a podcast about the business of startups, where we unpack the numbers and nuance behind the headlines.

The whole team was back together this week, which was pretty darn good as there was a lot to get through. Alex Wilhelm, Natasha Mascarenhas and Mary Ann Azevedo were on the mic, with Grace handling production.

What did we get into? A better question might be what did we not get into:

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Snapchat’s parental control features spotted in development

Snapchat is preparing to introduce a new parental control feature dubbed “Family Center,” which will allow parents to see who their teen is friends with on the app as well as who they’ve been messaging with over the past seven days, and more.

Snap’s CEO Evan Spiegel first teased the planned offering during an interview in October, where he explained the feature would give parents better visibility into how teens use its service and, hopefully, make them feel more comfortable with the app.

Snap is one of the last Big Tech social platforms to address the need for parental monitoring tools, though its app sees heavy use among younger users. At Snap’s NewFronts presentation to advertisers earlier this month, the company noted the Snapchat app now reaches more than 75% of 13-34-year-olds in over 20 countries, and 80% of the U.S. Gen Z population had watched at least one of its Snap Original shows.

According to new screenshots of Snapchat’s forthcoming Family Center shared with TechCrunch by the product intelligence firm Watchful, the new Family Center feature allows parents to see who their teen is friends with on the app. This is useful for parents because, unlike many social networks, Snapchat’s friend lists aren’t public. Parents will also have visibility into who their teen has chatted with over the past seven days — but not the contents of those conversations. The screenshots additionally explain that parents will be able to assist their teen in reporting abuse and harassment, if needed.

Image Credits: Snapchat screenshot via Watchful

The parental control feature works by allowing parents to invite their teen (or teens) to the new in-app Family Center in order to begin the monitoring. The recipient of that invitation has the option of either accepting or declining the invitation.

This is, arguably, an appropriate approach to parental controls involving teens, as it respects their privacy. Instead of allowing parents to surreptitiously spy on their teens, it ensures the parent and child will instead have a conversation about parental monitoring, where they agree to a set of rules appropriate for their own household.

The images provided by Watchful represent early designs of Snapchat’s feature, which is still in development and not yet live or being tested. We should note that products at this stage often change before their launch to the general public. That means the final product could look quite different. (The U.K. spelling of the word “Center,” too, suggests that we’re not seeing a global version of the Family Center product here.)

Image Credits: Snapchat screenshot via Watchful

Other large social platforms have already launched their parental control features and other age-appropriate experiences for their younger users. Snap is running a little behind.

TikTok, for example, has continued to develop its parental controls offerings following the debut of its in-app Family Pairing tool back in 2020. The tool allows parents to pair their TikTok account with a child’s in order to control the account’s privacy, whether it’s suggested to other TikTok users, whether the child can use search, and who, if anyone, can view, comment or interact with the child’s content, among other things. There’s also a toggle to put the account into an even safer mode for under-13 users.

YouTube also launched parental control features into testing last year that allow parents to select between different levels of YouTube access for teen or tween users. And Instagram arrived even later with its new safety tools for parents, also called Family Center, which didn’t roll out until March 2022. Its tools let parents monitor time spent on the app, who has followed the child’s account and more.

Although all platforms compete broadly in the social media space, they all operate a bit differently, which informs what type of parental control features are actually needed. In Snapchat’s case, minors on the app have to mutually accept each other as friends before they can begin messaging. Minors’ accounts also aren’t shown in search results or as friend suggestions to another user — unless they have friends in common. And minors are not able to have public profiles. That means Snap wouldn’t need to roll out parental control features to control these types of experiences.

Snap declined to comment on the Family Center screenshots, but the company had previously said the offering would arrive in the coming months.

TikTok is gearing up for games, including interactive minigames for TikTok LIVE

TikTok is already one of the world’s fastest-growing social media platforms, where it’s even overtaken YouTube on watch time in select markets and sports over 1 billion monthly active users. Now, the company is looking to expand the range of activities its users can do when they tire of flipping through short videos. A report from Reuters today indicates the company is further investing in HTML5 games, and has already begun tests. But we understand there may be more to TikTok’s gaming strategy than web-based gaming. It appears TikTok is also working on a LIVE mobile gaming feature that would allow creators to better engage fans while live streaming.

Reuters said TikTok planned to draw on parent company ByteDance’s suite of games, beginning with minigames that have simple mechanisms and a shorter playing time. It claimed tests had begun in Vietnam. But TikTok told TechCrunch that was inaccurate, saying that Vietnam gaming testing is not something it’s currently doing.

The social video app’s move into HTML5 gaming was already known, as TikTok had previously announced its plans alongside its Zynga partnership last year. The two companies had teamed up to launch the HTML5 game “Disco Loco 3D” exclusively on TikTok. And at the time, TikTok confirmed it was already in discussions with other game makers for similar deals, telegraphing a larger gaming expansion was still to come. TikTok says it doesn’t have any new partners to name on this front as of now.

Image Credits: Zynga

Ahead of the Zynga deal, TikTok had also already launched its own game, “Garden of Good,” built in partnership with nonprofit Feeding America and focused on charitable fundraising. This one felt more like an experiment to see if TikTok users would play an in-app game.

While still a smaller effort today, gaming could grow to become a significant monetization tool for TikTok, if the games end up being ad-supported or later add paid components, like in-app purchases.

In addition to its previously announced efforts to delve into HTML5 games, TechCrunch has also learned TikTok is looking to explore LIVE games in a separate effort.

According to an investigation by mobile product intelligence firm Watchful, based in Tel Aviv, TikTok is working to add minigames to LIVE videos in its app to enhance the live-streaming experience between creators and their fans.

One LIVE game Watchful uncovered is called “Draw & Guess,” which is designed specifically to encourage interaction between creators and viewers. In this Pictionary-like game, players are given words that they then draw on the screen, and viewers try to guess what they’re drawing. The correct guesses are shown on the screen.

Watchful also noted the mobile gaming feature may allow screen-sharing, so creators could share their screen with viewers in real-time, including their camera, audio, notifications, and other alerts. Their games could be shown in either landscape mode or portrait mode, the firm said.

While today, a handful of reverse engineers publicly share details of unannounced, still-in-development features they find in popular consumer apps, Watchful has productized this type of investigation and enhanced it with technology. The company uses a combination of computer vision and flow analysis to identify and emulate app changes. Its differential analysis engine compares application versions using real user data and proprietary computer vision algorithms, it says. The studies are also backed by the firm’s mobile device labs deployed around the world.

Reached for comment, TikTok did not have anything more to share about the LIVE gaming efforts, but told us it was a totally unrelated development from the HTML5 games Reuters had described.

Games aren’t the only way TikTok is looking to enhance the TikTok LIVE Platform.

Watchful also flagged another in-development feature that feels like a cross between a game and a virtual gifting experience. It allows users to add a “Treasure Box” to LIVE videos which doles out coins after a timer is up to a random set of users.

Image Credits: TikTok app image via Watchful

And it found TikTok was working on the in-app shopping experience, TikTok Shop, which is offered today in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Mainland China, Hong Kong, and the U.K. Here, TikTok appears to be looking at adding a shopping bag icon to LIVE shopping videos which, when clicked, opens up a window where viewers can browse through available products with the option to click to add them to a cart for immediate purchase.

Image Credits: TikTok app image via Watchful

TikTok declined to comment on these other LIVE platform plans.

WhatsApp ramps up revenue with global launch of Cloud API and soon, a paid tier for its Business App

WhatsApp is continuing its push into the business market with today’s news it’s launching the WhatsApp Cloud API to all businesses worldwide. Introduced into beta testing last November, the new developer tool is a cloud-based version of the WhatsApp Business API — WhatsApp’s first revenue-generating enterprise product — but hosted on parent company Meta’s infrastructure.

The company had been building out its Business API platform over the past several years as one of the key ways the otherwise free messaging app would make money. Businesses pay WhatsApp on a per-message basis, with rates that vary based on the region and number of messages sent. As of late last year, tens of thousands of businesses were set up on the non-cloud-based version of the Business API including brands like Vodafone, Coppel, Sears Mexico, BMW, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Iberia Airlines, Itau Brazil, iFood, and Bank Mandiri, and others. This on-premise version of the API is free to use.

The cloud-based version, however, aims to attract a market of smaller businesses, and reduces the integration time from weeks to only minutes, the company had said. It is also free.

Businesses integrate the API with their backend systems, where WhatsApp communication is usually just one part of their messaging and communication strategy. They may also want to direct their communications to SMS, other messaging apps, emails, and more. Typically, businesses would work with a solutions provider like Zendeks or Twilio to help facilitate these integrations. Providers during the cloud API beta tests had included Zendesk in the U.S., Take in Brazil, and MessageBird in the E.U.

During Meta’s messaging-focused “Conversations” live event today, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the global, public availability of the cloud-based platform, now called the WhatsApp Cloud API.

“The best business experiences meet people where they are. Already more than 1 billion users connect with a business account across our messaging services every week. They’re reaching out for help, to find products and services, and to buy anything from big-ticket items to everyday goods. And today, I am excited to announce that we’re opening WhatsApp to any business of any size around the world with WhatsApp Cloud API,” he said.

He said the company believes the new API will help businesses, both big and small, be able to connect with more people.

In addition to helping businesses and developers get set up faster than with the on-premise version, Meta says the Cloud API will help partners to eliminate costly server expenses and help them provide customers with quick access to new features as they arrive.

Some businesses may choose to forgo the API and use the dedicated WhatsApp Business app instead. Launched in 2018, the WhatsApp Business App is aimed at smaller businesses that want to establish an official presence on WhatsApp’s service and connect with customers. It provides a set of features that wouldn’t be available to users of the free WhatsApp messaging app, like support automated quick replies, greeting messages, FAQs, away messaging, statistics, and more.

Today, Meta is also introducing new power features for its WhatsApp Business app that will be offered for a fee — like the ability to manage chats across up to 10 devices. The company will also provide new customizable WhatsApp click-to-chat links that help businesses attract customers across their online presence, including of course, Meta’s other applications like Facebook and Instagram.

These will be a part of a forthcoming Premium service for WhatsApp Business app users. Further details, including pricing, will be announced at a later date.

 

Voicy wants to pwn gamers with audio memes

If meme stocks can be a thing, what’s to stop audio meme sharing from going viral!? Hoping to storm the ear-bending arena of social audio and win friends amid the gamer/creator crowd is Voicy — a Netherlands-based startup that’s building a platform for user-generated audio snippets (typically a few seconds long), offering tools to create emotive samples for reaction sharing to spice up your messaging/streams.

It’s not hard to predict where this idea goes: Straight to gross out fart sfx and pwning troll clips — which are indeed plentiful on this fledgling platform for user-generated (or, well, sampled) audio. Dank audio memes anyone?

Other viral noises are available. Borat clips, for example, or Squid Game sounds. Plus a cacophony of over-enthusiastic Internet memes in audio form. John Oliver screaming “GOOGLE IT!” repeatedly, or Epic Sax Guy’s epic saxing, and so on.

The typical Voicy user is, unsurprisingly, young and trigger happy, per the startup — which envisages gamer voice chat as a key target for a pipelines of social integrations it hopes to build out. So far it has one integration inked with messaging app, Viber — but it’s offering a “simple universal API” to encourage other platforms to sign up.

Zooming out, Voicy’s stated mission is to do for sound clips what Giphy has done for GIFs.

“We want to create a new way for people to express themselves creatively in how they communicate. In areas such as gaming, where communicating with images or text doesn’t work as well — there’s a huge gap for audio to really enhance the experience,” suggest co-founders Xander Kanon, Joey de Kruis and Milan Kokir via email.

“As we’ve seen with memes and GIFs, people love to create their own very creative content. Audio has the capacity to have the same, if not bigger impact on modern communications. We’ve seen from instant chat, to emoticons to GIFs that people all over the world want to experiment with and simply have fun with how they communicate — it’s one of the things we all have in common. In addition to this, the competition among apps and platforms is immense and all of them are working hard to make their offering more sticky, fun and engaging. This is where Voicy comes into play.”

“From the ground up, we have developed our platform to give users the express ability to create,” they add. “Our technology directly serves that purpose through an open-source approach to content, with safeguards layered in to moderate. With integrations, our approach has been to connect our platform with other platforms and give users wider accessibility to sharing content. With the addition of public API, further integrations and a strong foundation within the platform, we believe our impact can be exponential.”

The platform fully launched in October 2020, per the founders, and they’ve grown usage to 1.1 million monthly active users at this stage (although that’s including usage via Viber, not just ears they’re pulling into their own platform).

Other usage metrics they share include that users have created some 145,000 sound clips so far, with an average of 10k more being added per month. They also say a Voicy user plays, on average, 20 sound clips and shares one per visit.

While, following their recent partnership with Viber, users there have sent over 20 million audio messages — which have been played 100M times in just three months.

The startup is planning to build out a pipeline of third party integrations to drive for further growth, with the help of a €1.2 million pre-seed raise being announced today — eyeing potential love-ins across social messaging, streaming and gaming platforms. Or basically anywhere where noisy memes might find an appreciative audience.

“There are a lot of potential integrations within social messaging, for example WhatsApp, FB Messenger; social video — Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube; gaming — Roblox, Ubisoft, Xbox, Discord; and streaming — Twitch, Streamlabs and Corsair,” they suggest, reeling off the tier one consumer platform list.

Voicy’s pre-seed raise is led by Oliver Samwer’s Global Founders Capital, with a number of tech senior execs also participating from companies including Twitch, Spotify, Deezer, Snapchat, Booking, Uber, Reddit, Acast and Tesla.

Commenting in a statement, Global Founders Capital’s Soheil Mirpour said: “Voicy is a very exciting new startup. In short order, their strong team has grown a huge community of very active users who are creating hundreds of pieces of new audio content every day. There’s a massive amount of potential for short audio in social communication. A Discord user spends on average 285 minutes a day in a Discord voice chat, people share 7 billion voice messages per day on WhatsApp alone and billions of people use short audio in their TikTok or Instagram videos. Voicy brings a new concept to the table, which is ready to disrupt an enormous market — we knew we had to invest.”

But why do web users need audio memes when there are already, er, audio GIFs? Isn’t this a rather niche proposition — given existing overlap, plus the general (broad) competition from other reaction ‘shareables’ consumers can easily use to express themselves, from ye olde emoji, to customizable stickers to viral GIFs?

Soundless reaction formats (like GIFs) are also essentially an advantage to the sizeable ‘never turn up the volume’ mobile crew — whose silence-loving (voice-message hating) existence explains why even short video clips which are made to be shared on social typically come with captions to provide an baked in alternative to engaging any ear. (And, well, an audio meme with the sound off is just some sad-looking pixels, right? … Quite possibly, though, this is an older vs younger Internet user generation thang 😬)

Surprising no one, Voicy users so far are Gen Z or Gen Alpha, with a strong following amid the TikTok/Roblox generation, per the founders. (“Our users use us for gaming, creation, and messaging. Across our user base, most users are located in the USA (60%). The majority of users are aged below 35 years old (75%+),” they also confirm.)

“The advantage of a sound clip over a GIF/sound GIF is the wider applicability of it,” argue Voicy’s founders. “Practically, you can use a sound clip in your stream, during gaming, or to edit your video or your TikTok video/Youtube Short as well as use it in messaging. You simply cannot do this with an audio GIF due to user experience and practical constraints.”

“Audio memes are funny, iconic and unique shareable audio bites that can be used in any form of online communication to express thoughts or feelings in a specific context,” add the trio — who are self professed avid gamers themselves.

What about risks around copyright? How are they managing that issue? Voicy is not licensing any audio content currently but the founders suggest they may do in future. For now they’re relying on fair use to recirculate samples (plus their platform supports a DCMA reporting and takedowns procedure). They say they’re also using a third party service to stop protected samples from being piped onto any third party platforms they integrate with.

While it’s early for such a consumer-focused product to be focused on monetization, the team says they’re building Voicy as a marketplace — and ultimately intend to focus on the needs of the creator community.

“We believe that our long term opportunity lies at enabling creators to monetise their content,” they tell TechCrunch. “With the creator’s economy continuing to grow at a rapid speed, we provide them a platform to create, clipify, distribute, earn, and build a community around their sonic identity. With a large integration network and a platform as an end-destination for consuming and engaging with sounds and sound-creators, Voicy can monetise its library and integrations. Voicy can provide a ton of value both for the supply side and the demand side.”

“More specifically, our business model will be focused around the sub-licensing of clips, and by providing additional premium features for creators to do what they do best: creating content. Content will have the possibility to be sub-licensed to integration partners, fans, other creators, and premium consumers,” they add.

NY AG is investigating Twitch, Discord and 4chan for their role in the Buffalo mass shooting

New York Attorney General Letitia James will launch an investigation into the role that social media and online message boards played in the tragedy that unfolded in Buffalo over the weekend.

On Saturday, an 18-year-old shooter opened fire at a Tops supermarket, killing 10 people and wounding three others. In online materials, the suspected shooter describes how discovering white supremacy on 4chan radicalized his thinking and ultimately inspired him to carry out the deadly attack.

The investigation was prompted by a referral from New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who called on social media companies to monitor content more aggressively for dangerous extremism in the days following the mass shooting.

“I am seeking your assistance to investigate the specific online platforms that were used to broadcast and amplify the acts and intentions of the mass shooting that took place in Buffalo on May 14, 2022 and determine whether specific companies have civil or criminal liability for their role in promoting, facilitating, or providing a platform to plan and promote violence,” Hochul wrote in a letter to the AG’s office Wednesday.

The attorney general’s office plans to examine social apps and sites “including but not limited to” Twitch, Discord, 4chan and 8chan.

“Time and time again, we have seen the real-world devastation that is borne of these dangerous and hateful platforms, and we are doing everything in our power to shine a spotlight on this alarming behavior and take action to ensure it never happens again,” James said.

Her office did not provide much detail on the investigation, which lumps mainstream social media services with content moderation together with notorious, anything goes hubs of extremism like 4chan and 8chan. While the former will likely comply with the AG’s office, the latter two web forums are less likely to humor the investigation.

8chan, which is run out of the Philippines, in particular is a hotbed of activity for extremists planning racist violence. Mass shooters in El Paso, Christchurch, New Zealand, Poway, California and now Buffalo all posted their plans and screeds to 8chan prior to their deadly attacks. In a journal entry prior to the attack, the Buffalo shooter noted that he would publish his writing on 8chan and 4chan in addition to sending it to his Discord servers and friends list.

The web forum that appears to be the main source of the suspected shooter’s ideals, 4chan, refuses to make any proactive efforts to moderate content and has long incubated white supremacy and other dangerous forms of extremism.

Amazon-owned Twitch detected the shooter’s livestream within two minutes of the violence beginning and removed the video, though it continues to circulate openly on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. It’s not clear if the AG’s investigation will also examine the spread of the graphic video, which has been copied many times and shared around the web.

The suspected shooter published his plans in detail to a private Discord server and on Google Docs, but neither private digital space is scanned to detect extremist threats. The question of how much online platforms should monitor non-public spaces is a difficult one given privacy concerns and existing laws, but it’s also a conversation we’re likely to be hearing a lot about in the coming days.

YouTube teases expansion of livestream shopping with new features arriving later this year

In recent years, YouTube has been working to transform its platform into more of a shopping destination with product launches like shoppable ads or more recently, the ability to shop directly from livestreams hosted by creators. Now, it’s furthering that investment with new features for live shopping experiences. At yesterday’s YouTube Brandcast event, where the company pitched itself to advertisers as a better place for their TV ad dollars, YouTube teased upcoming features that it claimed would make it easier for viewers to discover and buy from brands.

The company touted its forthcoming tools as offering advertisers a better way to engage viewers and make connections with their audience.

One new feature, explained YouTube, will allow two creators to go live at the same time to cohost a single live shopping stream. This could effectively double the draw for the event, as each creator would bring their own fanbase to the stream.

This feature arrives shortly after YouTube in March announced a pilot program called “Go Live Together,” a new mobile collaborative streaming feature that would enable creators to invite guests to their livestream with a link before going live together. This trial suggested YouTube had its eye on developing tools to better power joint livestreams — just as it’s now planning to introduce with its upcoming two-person live shopping streams. The addition could also make YouTube more competitive with Instagram which launched the ability for creators to go live with up to three people last year.

In addition to leveraging creators to build an audience for a live shopping event, YouTube’s shopping livestreams platform also offers other tools specifically designed to drive sales. The brand-integrated shopping experience actually allows viewers to shop the products shown in the video by tapping on a built-in “view products” button which then brings up a list of items featured by the creators.

The company says its new two-person live shopping feature will roll out sometime later this year.

Another upcoming option announced at Brandcast is something YouTube calls “live redirects.”

In this case, creators will be able to start a shopping livestream on their channel, then redirect their audience over to a brand’s channel for fans to keep watching. This allows brands to tap into the power of the creator’s platform and reach their fanbase, but then gives the brands themselves access to that audience — and the key metrics and analytics associated with their live event — directly on their own YouTube channel. This will also roll out sometime this year, says YouTube, but didn’t provide a timeframe.

YouTube’s announcements follow the broader growth of the live e-commerce market in the U.S. — a trend inspired by the livestream shopping activity surging in China, where streamers can pull in billions of dollars in a matter of hours. Today, a number of startups have also entered this space, including TalkShopLive, PopShop Live, NTWRK, Whatnot, ShopShops, Supergreat, and others. Klarna even added virtual shopping capabilities to connect its buy-now, pay-later customers with live product demos from retail partners.

Retailers, too, are getting in on the action. Nordstrom launched a live events platform, while Forever 21 and Macy’s are among those that added live shopping to their apps.

Meanwhile, big tech platforms are wooing brands by touting their wider reach.

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen Walmart pilot testing TikTok’s first livestreamed shopping experience; Facebook’s live shopping boosting sales for brands like Petco, Benefit, Samsung, Anne Klein, and others; and Instagram hosting live shopping events to cater to holiday crowds. Twitter even began to test livestream shopping, also with Walmart’s help on its pilot run — but it’s unclear where such initiatives will land if the Elon Musk buyout comes to pass.

While YouTube is certainly one of the largest creator platforms for video, there is some indication that it needs to catch up to its big tech rivals in livestream shopping, however. An eMarketer study from Jan. 2022 found that only 14.4% of survey respondents said YouTube’s platform drove them to purchase during a livestream event compared with 15.8% for TikTok, 45.8% for Instagram, and 57.8% for Facebook.

Image Credits: eMarketer/Insider Intelligence

YouTube’s new livestream features — and particularly the one that pushes a creator’s fanbase to a brand’s channel — could make its solution more compelling.

“People come to YouTube every day to make decisions about what to buy, and 87% of viewers say that when they’re shopping or browsing on YouTube, they feel like they can make a faster decision about what to purchase because of all the information that we have in videos,” said YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, speaking to the audience at the Brandcast live event last night. “We have so much shopping activity that is already happening on YouTube, so we are making it even easier for viewers to discover and to buy,” she said.

Twitter rolls out the ability for creators to host Super Follows-only Spaces

Twitter has announced that it’s rolling out Super Follows-only Spaces. Creators who offer Super Follows subscriptions can now host Spaces exclusively for their subscribers. The social media giant says this new option will give creators a way to “offer an extra layer of conversation to their biggest supporters.”

Subscribers globally on iOS and Android will be able to join and request to speak in Super Follows-only Spaces, whereas subscribers on Twitter’s web platform can join and listen, but won’t have the option to request to speak. Creators can start a Super Follows-only Space by selecting the “Only Super Followers can join” button when starting a new Space. Users who aren’t Super Following a creator will still see the Space, but won’t be able to access it unless they subscribe.  

It’s worth noting that the new Super Follow-only option for Spaces isn’t the only way for creators to hold exclusive Spaces. For example, Twitter launched its Ticketed Spaces feature last year to allow creators to set a price for users to listen in on a Space. Creators can set their ticket price anywhere between $1 and $999 and can also limit how many tickets are sold.

Super Follows, which was first revealed in February 2021, allows users to subscribe to accounts they like for a monthly subscription fee in exchange for exclusive content. Super Follows is currently in testing with select creators in the United States on iOS. Eligible accounts can set the price for Super Follow subscriptions, with the option of charging $2.99, $4.99 or $9.99 per month.

The launch of Super Follows-only Spaces adds another layer of exclusivity to Super Follows subscriptions. Twitter says it plans to launch more Super Follows features to allow creators to grow their audiences and get closer to their most engaged followers.

Twitter says its research shows that hosting consistent Spaces leads to more follower growth and also gives creators more ways to engage with their followers. The company found that consistently hosting Spaces, around two times per week, leads to a 17% follower growth over a quarter. In addition, the company says creators who host consistent Spaces for a month see a 6-7% growth in followers, and creators who do so for two months see a 10% growth in followers.

Candle Media, the new media company co-backed by former Disney execs, acquires Gen Z-focused ATTN: for $100M

Candle Media, the new media company headed by former Disney execs, Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs, has made another acquisition — this time with an eye on social storytelling and reaching a Gen Z to millennial audience. The company announced today it will become the new owner of ATTN:, a media company that uses entertainment to discuss topical issues that help explain the world to a younger audience — particularly those who consume content on social media.

Of note, ATTN: also launched its own TikTok studio last year to provide production services for brands that wanted to reach the TikTok user base. Clients on that effort have included big name brands like Google, Madewell, MTV and even TikTok itself, which partnered with ATTN: to manage its own “TikTok for Good” channel. That deal was recently renewed for a second year.

Candle explained its interest in ATTN: had to do with the company’s ability to effectively engage a social audience.

“ATTN: has a deep, digital-native understanding for how to cut through the noise and reach today’s audiences through engaging content on social media. We are excited for them to join Candle and provide the benefits of their talented team’s expertise across our brands and franchises,” read a statement by Candle co-CEOs, Mayer and Staggs.

Launched in 2014, ATTN: has created original series for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Twitch, in addition to networks ABC, NBC, CBS, MTV, Freeform and Discovery as well as for streaming services like Hulu and Apple TV. Its brand studio and agency have relationships with companies like Amazon, Ford, Google, Intel, Mattel, P&G, Target and T-Mobile.

The acquisition offers ATTN: scale, capital and expertise to accelerate its growth, Candle Media said in a press release. ATTN: co-founders Matthew Segal and Jarrett Moreno, along with the existing senior management team, will continue to oversee day-to-day operations, original content, production and studio work, the announcement said.

Variety reports the deal for ATTN: is around $100 million in both cash and stock but could be worth up to $150 million with additional earn-out provisions. Candle confirmed this figure to TechCrunch as well.

Blackstone-backed, L.A.-based Candle Media was founded with an eye on aggregating brands to build an independent media operation — a rarity at a time when most media companies are now running their own streaming services.

In an interview with Deadline, Mayer explained that Candle’s lack of a streamer was an important part of its strategy, as it believes demand for content itself is going to grow “extremely robustly” in the months ahead.

After coming onto the scene last year, the company has been making several high-profile acquisitions, including that of kids content company and “CoComelon” owner Moonbug for $3 billion; “Fauda” maker Faraway Road Productions for somewhere south of $50 million; and Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine for around $900 million.

This year, it also took a more than 10% stake in Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s media company, Westbrook, and was said to be in talks to acquire NFT company Notables.

Candle has also been hiring, having recently added former UTA and Disney execs as its chief development officer and CFO.

The company says it expects the deal for ATTN: to close in about 30 days.

Updated, 5/17/22, 5:06 PM ET with confirmation of deal price.