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Warner Music acquires IMGN, a social media publishing platform, for under $100M

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It’s a whole new playing field these days for music labels and publishers, and today one of the biggies made an acquisition to help it sharpen up its strategy to better understand what people want to see and hear online today.

Warner Music — with a market cap of $15.4 billion, one of the big three recording giants (alongside Universal and Sony) and which owns labels like Atlantic, Elektra and others and has a huge roster of artists that includes the likes of Madonna, Ed Sheeran and Linkin Park — is acquiring IMGN Media, a Tel Aviv and New York-based startup that builds and tracks viral social media content in categories like esports and gaming, ASMR and entertainment.

IMGN used to be called Comedy.com. It widened its remit from simply funny stuff and rebranded in 2017, and according to its site has about 3 billion views per month and has some 40 million subscribers to its content, with some 85% of that classified as “Gen Z and millennials.”

The news caps off several weeks of speculation about the startup. In July, reports in the Israeli press emerged that said IMGN was being circled by Snap for about $180 million; and further to that, a source told us that TikTok was also in the frame, looking at the company at a price tag of around $150 million. In the end, the terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but we understand the deal was done for just under $100 million.

IMGN was founded in 2015 and had raised about $6 million from a long list of angels and firms, including Rhodium, Dot Capital and Prism Venture Management.

The plan will be to keep IMGN independent of Warner, continuing to develop and analyse viral content across a range of platforms, with founder Barak Shragai staying on to lead the team.

Warner, meanwhile, does not plan to use the platform to simply market Warner artists, but to tap it for more insights into where people are going online these days, and what they want to see, so that it can better target its own marketing efforts accordingly.

That’s not to say that the two will not work together at all. Warner became acquainted with the startup because it had been a customer of IMGN’s.

Warner has a history both of investing and acquiring startups, depending on its strategic interests. In July, for example, it took part in a Series B round for Canadian audio mastering startup Landr. Further back, it has acquired the likes of music concert listings platform Songkick and pop culture site Uproxx — which it also uses to help track trends in the world of music and among its target demographics.

IMGN will continue working with other third-party brands under its new owner. Past customers have included Electronic Arts, Burger King and Microsoft. The Microsoft deal was by way of its Mixer live game streaming platform, and the fact that this Twitch competitor was shut down last month says a lot about the state of the market and how precarious an audience can be.

Not just consumer tastes, but companies’ business strategies, shift all the time. Microsoft pulling the plug on Mixer underscores how IMGN itself can quickly lose a customer, pointing to why ownership by WMG can feel more secure. As for Warner — which is traded publicly these days but still majority owned by Access Industries, the holding company controlled by Len Blavatnik — the fact that Mixer is tracking and building content for a range of platforms gives it more of a bird’s-eye view on that bigger picture, rather than simply relying on data from the platforms themselves, or its own research, to figure out what the world wants to see and hear.

“WMG not only offers us greater investment and support, but an entrepreneurial environment to continue growing our business, with the people running our accounts having editorial independence,” said Shragai. “We’re excited to partner with them as we take our company into the future.”

The bigger picture here is that the music industry has evolved well beyond the traditional, analogue world of publishing and selling physical media, where consumers learned about and listened to new artists and songs over the radio and TV (and read about their favorite musicians or genres in magazines).

With the shift to mobile and digital platforms, there’s now a much wider, and quickly shifting, plethora of places where people discover and listen to music.

And digital platforms themselves — from those focused specifically on audio and music, like Spotify, through to those where music is a side-hustle to continue to capture audience, like Facebook, through to those that are neither but are still huge music destinations, like TikTok — are also getting deeply involved in tracking how tastes are evolving, and where people are going to get their music fix.

So it’s only natural to see labels looking for ways to have more direct access to those insights themselves, bypassing all those platforms — even as they also work with them (and indeed, to help them negotiate better with those platforms, at the end of the day).

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Meta, Long an AI Leader, Tries Not to Be Left Out of the Boom

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Meta, Long an AI Leader, Tries Not to Be Left Out of the Boom

SAN FRANCISCO — Two weeks before a chatbot called ChatGPT appeared on the internet in November and wowed the world, Meta, the owner of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, unveiled a chatbot of its own. Called Galactica, it was designed for scientific research. It could instantly write its own …

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Woman pens love letters to Bryan Kohberger

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Woman pens love letters to Bryan Kohberger

(NewsNation) —Bryan Kohberger, the man accused of killing four University of Idaho students, has received a love letter.

A Facebook user named Brittney J. Hislope said she’s been writing and mailing Kohberger about a letter a day since his Dec. 30 arrest.

“There’s something about a dangerous man that can be appealing to some women,” psychotherapist Robi Ludwig said during an appearance Monday night on NewsNation’s “Banfield.”

Hislope calls Kohberger her “perfect man” and regularly discusses her obsession with him on Facebook.

In one recent post, she wrote, “Bryan is being kept isolated from other inmates, and so I know that we do both likely sleep alone. … I don’t mean that I reach out to him to receive anything back at all from him, since I do that from a place of caring about him, sharing my feelings, and know what a serious situation he’s in. But it’s understandable how I wonder how he feels about me.”

She claims she’s a single mom in Kentucky. NewsNation hasn’t been able to independently confirm she is a real person, but the profile has existed since January 2019, meaning the account isn’t from after the Idaho murders.

Another post reads: “I wrote Bryan a letter nights ago that was at least four pages long … I have written him another letter that is three pages front and back and almost another full page, as well as another letter that is two pages front and back. I already mailed out the one that I mentioned nights ago that I wrote, and I wish that I had more peace of mind about him receiving them. It wouldn’t be right or fair if he didn’t receive them because someone interfered even if I stayed within the rules of what’s allowed to be said in letters to an inmate.”

This is not the first time accused killers have obsessed fans. Ted Bundy and Charles Manson also lured in love interests.

Ludwig said there’s a “seductiveness” that comes with a man in prison.

“They can be very charming. The advantage of pursuing somebody who’s behind bars is you don’t have to deal with them in real life. They can’t frustrate you,” Ludwig said.

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Sam Bankman-Fried Lawyer Says Agreement Has Been Reached on Use of Messaging Apps

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Sam Bankman-Fried Lawyer Says Agreement Has Been Reached on Use of Messaging Apps

The two sides are asking the court to modify Bankman-Fried’s bail conditions to allow him to use various messaging apps, including FaceTime, Zoom, iMessage, SMS texts, emails, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. (For WhatsApp, Bankman-Fried’s cell phone must have monitoring software installed to record those messages.)

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