On Squawka and its new owners

Squawka is dead. Long live Squawka.

On the morning of 3 November, the news of Squawka’s demise filtered out on Twitter, slowly.

Everyone was sad that people had lost their jobs; former employees mourned what sounded like a good working environment; journalists who had been, temporarily, within the site’s orbit mumbled about plagiarism or poor pay; more niche members of stats twitter mourned ‘what could have been’.

Rumours about the financial well-being of the company had been lightly swirling for some time, and it seemed that come November these finally came to fruition.

While co-founder Leo Harrison tweeted that he was hopeful a solution could be found that kept everyone employed, the rush of Squawka’s content team to offer themselves up for, and obtain, new jobs indicated that they may have just been a brush on Trigger’s broom.

[Note: Harrison has tweeted his celebration of the ‘Phoenix rising from the ashes’ that kept the business alive – how many of their ‘brilliant staff’ remained employed is unknown]

Unlike WhoScored – who came into being at a similar time – Squawka had, over the years, shifted their focus from the data to content on their website and this may have been crucial in being attractive to new owners Catena Media (although may not have arrested their initial decline).

Catena – who acquired Squawka in mid-December – are, in their own words, “a lead generation company, driving traffic to online casinos and sportsbooks.” They own several gambling products themselves (with names like Casino Bonus 360 and John Slots), as well as working with partners such as 888 casino and Unibet.

With the acquisition of Squawka, Catena have themselves an extra sports gambling product in Matchboss (a game where players predict who will be the man of the match in various games), as well as an established site with which they can drive traffic to either their own products or those of their partners.

Or, in the words of acting CEO Henrik Persson Ekdahl in Catena Media’s acquisition announcement:

“We see potential for Squawka as a high-volume traffic site with a global audience, to which we look forward to implementing an affiliation business model.”

Squawka’s website and social media feeds have slowly clicked into gear in the past couple of days, a relatively small number of articles going up as well as a “We’re Back” post on the 21 December, signed by ‘The Squawka Team’.

Who ‘The Squawka Team’ are remains to be seen, given that none of Squawka’s former content producers seem to have been retained, and most have gained employment elsewhere.

One of the new articles, on Kylian Mbappé, is written by Jake Entwhistle, a former Squawka employee, but “whether this is a one off remains to be seen.”

The other two articles written by named writers are by Tom Rooney (Head of Football Publishing at Catena Media) and Will Hall (Retained from the old Squawka days, where he was the former News Editor). Two other articles are written by an anonymous ‘Squawka News’.

Whether Catena’s in-house team will be able to replicate the style and output that helped Squawka to grow to their current scale will be interesting.

Though Squawka’s output became what one could perhaps politely call ‘overly varied’ – which their site, still in need of work, attests to, something for everyone but focused on none of those – it was nonetheless broadly popular.

What makes Squawka attractive to Catena Media is the audience traffic (and – possibly, though this wasn’t focussed on in the press release – the access to Opta data it has bought). Squawka 2.0 will presumably need to retain the feel of Squawka 1.0 to maintain it as an attractive part of the portfolio.

EDIT: A previous version of this post mistook a William Hall, working for Catena Media and SBAT ltd, for Will Hall, News Editor at Squawka.

UPDATE 01/01/2018:

As well as Will Hall, Mohamed Moallim and Harry Edwards are New-Era Squawka writers who have been retained from Old-Era Squawka, as well as a small host of others who have been pitching in to create content over the festive period.

The output has ratcheted up since the re-launch, from the three-a-day (give or take a couple) output from the 21-25 December, now into double digits each day since the 30th*.

A sidenote of interest which didn’t make it into the original article is the Defending in Numbers podcast – a ‘Deezer original’ which launched in association with Squawka at the start of the season but ported itself over to an association with JOE in December (if I recall correctly), prior to the announcement of Squawka’s resurrection.

What happens to the pod now remains to be seen.

*counting everything under the ‘Latest News’ section, which appears to include everything since the re-launch.

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