Why Is Canadian Media Ignoring the $100M Sale of a Toronto Startup?

Pretty weird, huh?

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Mar 29 2016, 9:09pm

Image: Flickr/AdamPrzezdziek

Last week, Fortune reported that Snapchat bought Toronto-based company Bitstrips—you might remember their cartoon avatars from your mom's Facebook wall about a year ago—for a figure "in the ballpark" of $100 million.

Normally, this kind of thing is chum in the water for Canadian media, who often keep track of their own. A Canadian company did something! In 2013, both the CBC (the country's public broadcaster) and the Toronto Star ran stories on a $3 million investment round. But in 2016, not a single article on the very same company's big $100 million sell-off ran in either of those publications, or any Canadian outlet except for a short piece on CTV , and a satirical magazine called Frank. The Globe and Mail linked to an article on the sale in a business news round-up. (If we've missed some, please let us know.)

It's all very, very fucking weird, especially when compared to the coverage in US media. The number of Canadian articles on the deal can be counted on one hand, but the US coverage could be counted on… well, you'd need a lot more hands.

Neither Bitstrips nor Snapchat are talking to the press about the deal, and I did try—It's worth noting, of course, that not having access to company spokespeople didn't stop US media from covering the sale. Thus, the media has been left to speculate about what value Bitstrips could add to a company that has inked deals with numerous publishers, including VICE. Could Snapchat be planning to integrate Bitmojis as stickers in the app's newly revamped messaging feature? Or are they for "turn yourself into a cartoon Star Wars character"-style promotions as a way to finally effectively monetize the platform?

For what it's worth, a tech analyst for consulting firm Deloitte said he had no special insight into the deal, but that my monetization theory "makes sense."

Somehow, most of the Canadian media's radio silence on the buy-out is even stranger than the sale itself. What even is Bitstrips, anyway? I don't use it. Do you? Do any of your friends? I would guess the answer is no. Bitmojis are not cool. You can't slyly send an innocent little purple vegetable that really means "let's get drunk and fuck" with Bitmojis. You can, however, make a little cartoon of yourself that says "GOOD JOB" or whatever. Schoolkids use this stuff.

Whatever the supposed added value of Bitstrips, what still makes no sense is how laid-back Canadian media has been on the whole deal. Maybe some sort of deep dive will hit the papers tomorrow, or maybe not. Until then, we're left to wonder about how the deal benefits Snapchat, Bitstrips, and the company's co-owners, which includes Canadian media critic, podcaster, and Patreon user Jesse Brown of Canadaland.

Canadaland has not responded to Motherboard's request for an interview with Brown.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Brown has not responded to Motherboard's request for an interview. For clarity, this has been updated to say that Canadaland has not responded to Motherboard's request for an interview with Brown, since the emails went to the Canadaland editor's inbox.