Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Ben Rubin. Photo: Houseparty

Three years after his live video app Meerkat was all the rage at SXSW festival, Life on Air co-founder and CEO Ben Rubin can deal with its short-lived success (they later pivoted to Houseparty app). It was simply one of his company’s many steps in figuring out how to help people connect with each other and be present, he tells Axios.

Why it matters: While chatting with Axios at SXSW this weekend, Rubin discusses the current state of the social media market and problems facing companies. Many have been criticized for exploiting human psychology and having harmful effects on people’s mental health, something Facebook has begun to admit recently.

On abuse via social media companies like Facebook and Twitter:

I don't think that anybody did something bad. I think that if I were them, I'd probably be in the same place… Every product person is very optimistic, very naive, and that's how good product people should be. And because of this, we forget that in the real world, people will exploit this thing.

On the success of Houseparty, his company's new video chat app:

How many times in order of magnitude do you think Houseparty is bigger than Meerkat? …27 times bigger [in terms of daily usage] than our best day on Meerkat.

On life after Meerkat’s initial success and its quick decline after Twitter released a rival:

It was very lonely time for like six months… And we had to focus, and we decided that we're going to pivot and we made the decision literally three months after we launched Meerkat… And the beautiful thing about Houseparty is that the moment we had that [minimum viable product]… we’re like 'this is what we're trying to build, this is what we're missing.'

On the lessons from Meerkat and building Houseparty:

We realized like real people don't really like to broadcast, and that's fine. So how can we find that mental model of moving from the stage metaphor, which is that one-to-many broadcast, to a ‘house party’ metaphor, which is people who know each other and how they interact.

On the rise of smartphones and social media:

2011 was such an incredible year. Why? Smartphones are crossing like 50% penetration in the States. Social networks become ubiquitous and people are starting to exist online and see their identity online…And the interesting thing is that for age groups of 21 and 24 and below since 2011… they’re hanging with friends in real life 40% less than the same age group…And they get less into car accidents. They’re less likely to explore, you know sexually, their life. They’re less likely to try to smoke cigarette like there's all these things that are not happening.
But also what happened is that in the same age group, teen depression has tripled… For female teens, depression has gone to like 48%— 48% of females below the age of 21 experienced depression, like real depression…It’s like nuts, and that number is three times higher than it was before 2011.

On the toxicity of social media feeds:

The way you can make money off feeds and the way you make feeds more addictive, there's only two levers. Either I show you things that reaffirm you, that make you feel good about yourself that makes the insecurity about yourself—or things that you aspire to be... What's wrong about it is that it removes the diversity of opinion, it removes the conversation, and then it removes in the end empathy because you don't really expose the different opinion.

On why even sending messages ins't the same as social interaction:

I don't want to live in a world where my kids, like, have the best emojis for a conversation, but don't have like the best facial expression because they just don't know what to do.

On his background in architecture and building social apps:

I'm not in the business of social media... I studied architecture for three years before I left to do this and what I tried to do in architecture is to create new encounters between people.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

5 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!