It was a big week for tech and politics as the four leaders of the major U.S. tech companies testified in front of the House Antitrust subcommittee. We spoke to Alex Heath and Chris Stern about which CEOs weathered the questions from lawmakers best and where the antitrust investigations go from here. Then Cory speaks to Anissa Gardizy about delivery startup GoPuff and the problems its skyrocketing growth has caused for its neighbors.
Microsoft’s Talks to Buy TikTok Follow Headwinds for Investor Plan
Microsoft is in serious talks to acquire TikTok, the hugely popular Chinese-owned video app, The Information has confirmed, after separate talks for a U.S. investor group to buy the app ran into headwinds on both political and business grounds.
Senior ByteDance executives see Microsoft as more able to afford Tiktok, which could be worth $30 billion or more, and to have a management team that could absorb the app more easily than if it was a standalone company. ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming also has ties to Microsoft, having worked there early in his career. TikTok’s global general counsel Erich Andersen also has a strong Microsoft connection: he joined TikTok in January after 20 years at the software giant.
Microsoft Talks to TikTok: The Information’s Tech Briefing
News that Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok raises all sorts of fascinating questions. Microsoft in recent years has been much more focused on selling to business customers than individuals; TikTok would take them in the opposite direction. The closest fit within Microsoft’s business would be its Xbox gaming division, although it isn’t that close.
It also would raise Microsoft’s exposure to the advertising business, which isn’t ideal for Microsoft shareholders. One reason why Microsoft has skated through the pandemic largely unaffected is its lack of dependency on ad revenue. One big question is whether antitrust regulators would approve the deal. True, this is a new area for Microsoft. But one of the concerns expressed by politicians in recent days is the influence of big tech. A TikTok acquisition wouldn’t reduce a big tech company’s power.
It would, however, create a formidable rival to Facebook and Google’s YouTube, both of which compete with TikTok. For that reason alone, antitrust regulators may be happy.—Martin Peers
Airbnb’s New Strategy: Living Without Google
Employees who worked on Airbnb’s marketing team in recent years have sometimes pondered a tantalizing question: What would happen to the company’s growth if it stopped spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on ads that appear high up in Google search results?
The pandemic may have given Airbnb the opportunity to test that path. As the coronavirus brought travel to a near standstill in March, the company abruptly halted online advertising to cut costs. The effects so far have been mixed. Even with scant marketing spending, Airbnb has started to see a rebound in bookings and website traffic. But Airbnb also has recovered more slowly than smaller competitors, including Expedia-owned Vrbo, which has been spending more aggressively on ads in recent months.
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