Ben Young
Ben Young
March 17, 2023

Edition #396

Spotify to buy TikTok? Kottke turns 25 and Lifehacker sold.

TikTok has been told to divest its US business, in light of security concerns about its data. Notably the US has asked TikTok to do this before and backed down. It’s hard not to see this as a bit of a geopolitical baton. Which it is.

But Matt Weinberger of Insider Tech put out a tweet Wednesday morning, who would be the funniest company to buy TikTok? And really, shouldn’t it be Spotify? TikTok started as Musicly, then grew. And now Spotify is going to be moving closer to a TikTok like interface.

Silicon valley like this concept of the main thing. That is the thing that you do. And companies lose their way over time, only to return to the main thing. Facebook with the metaverse (who are now testing a text based, decentralized social network). The main thing at Spotify is music, TikTok is creating instant hits of dopamine. So it would be an accretive purchase. Yet it could be a distraction from the main thing. Spotify is for our ears, not our eyes.

A better play for Spotify might be augmented reality, or pushing into ‘radio channels’ ALA Netflix experimenting with a channel. Things where audio content make sense. They are chipping away at podcasts & audiobooks. Kids content could be improved.

I’ve diverted though, this uncertainty with TikTok does make it hard for businesses to make long term commitments to the platform. Either from an advertising, audience building or capabilities investment. So brands are leaning on influencers/freelancers/ads – all costs they can unwind quickly if they need to. And that’s not good for TikTok, the US is the most lucrative market, and as quickly as that spend came onboard, it can flow elsewhere.

Now it’s not going to happen like that, but I make the point, that to grow and sustain its position, it does need the support of the eco-system around it. And without it, it can fall to the wayside.

Notable stories this week


  • Endeavor invested in Twitter 2.0.
  • Lifehacker sold by G/O to Ziff Davis.
  • ASOS integrates targeted ads with Criteo.

Campaign of the week

  • Midjourney is releasing a magazine with images, and of course the prompts behind them. Charging $4/month for it.

  • ^ Good example of content so good, they can charge for it. Counter point, they should just make it free. I guess they do, but the fee covers the printing.
  • Vizio’s first branded program: A lifestyle show, but also an ad.

View all 2023 best campaigns.

Smartest commentary

  • “Ultimately, brand publishers remain in wait-and-see mode. As a relatively new discipline, they still have room to figure out how to make it work efficiently and with high impact. Most brands didn’t really get going on 2023 planning because there was a tendency to kick the can down the road until a clearer picture emerged. “Technically, it is possible to make the argument that brand publishing is a long-term investment in the brand and shouldn’t be cut,”… “But net-net is people don’t want to make non-cancelable commitments.”Adam Kleinberg, CEO, Traction.

Datapoints of note

That’s it for this week.