Facebook Buys Tugboat Yards, Eyeing Small Publishers

This week Facebook took another step in its plan to do, well, everything with its acquisition of Tugboat Yards, a start-up that enabled small and medium-sized publishers to generate revenue from subscriptions, tips, and other forms of payment from their small but devoted followings.

Facebook is shutting down the previous Tugboat Yards service as of June 30, but will resurrect its technology as part of the main Facebook platform.

Tugboat Yards’ technology allowed publishers to deploy embeddable widgets in podcasts, digital magazines, and other types of content to make sales, removing much of the hassle involved with e-commerce for media products, which often present the additional challenge of repeat payments for ongoing subscriptions.

Cofounder and CEO Andrew Anker explained the move in a post on the Tugboat Yards blog: “Our initial reason for starting Tugboat -- that there was a missing audience management platform for small to medium publishers -- remains valid three years later. We are excited by the opportunity to work on solving these problems with a much broader scope at Facebook.” According to Anker, “we will be joining the Facebook product team to work on media products such as news and video.

As noted, Facebook seems intent on inserting itself into every imaginable part of the online economy. Earlier this week I wrote about its plans to bring casual games to its Messenger platform. Previously it introduced free mobile video calling as part of its mobile Messenger app, putting it in direct competition with Skype and Apple’s FaceTime.  

In March it got into the mobile payments game, allowing users to send money to friends via Messenger, pitting it against other peer-to-peer payment services like Square, Venmo, and Snapcash.

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