Jelly Has Its Breaking News Moment, Is First To Report Facebook’s Acquisition Of Branch

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Jelly, the new Q&A app from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, may have a secondary purpose beyond becoming the living embodiment of the Lazyweb – it’s now breaking news, too, it seems. This morning, news outlets covered the acquisition of Branch Media by Facebook, following an official announcement by company co-founder Josh Miller, posted to Facebook around 9 AM EST. But Jelly had the news last night, it turns out.

A question that appeared at random in the app in this morning’s flow had a user asking, “what happened [to] Branch? The company has been quiet. Are they focusing on the Potluck app now?” Apparently, the question’s asker was interested in the direction Branch Media was taking, wondering whether it was abandoning its early conversation service called Branch in favor of its new link-sharing, mobile news app Potluck.

But what’s interesting are the responses. Two users replied to the question noting that Branch was acquired, before the news was made public.

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The posts were timestamped “11” and “10 hours ago” (as of 9:06 AM this morning), placing them as being published on Jelly late Sunday night. In other words, Jelly had the news first – before the Facebook post from Miller, and before the reporting published by news outlets like The Verge or TechCrunch.

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 11.17.35 AM

To be sure that the time frame was accurate (Jelly is an early stage product, so you can never be too careful about possible bugs), we reached out to those who seemed to have had the scoop yesterday. And indeed, one of the users confirmed to me that the response came from “personal knowledge” of the situation, and said they were aware of today’s forthcoming announcement.

This is an interesting turn of events for Jelly, an app which many are still making up their mind about. The service has seen a flurry of activity among early adopters who are curious to see what the Twitter co-founder has dreamed up next. Currently, only some of the questions on Jelly are interesting or useful (like Mark Zuckerberg’s query about a spider in his shower, perhaps?), while others are certainly less so. Some of the commenters, too, tend to answer with jokes or snark, instead of trying to be helpful.

But this example demonstrates Jelly’s potential – there is the chance that the service could play a role, similar to Twitter, in helping break news first by its nature of being quick and mobile, while long-form news reporting (including the necessary fact-checking) takes more time.

Of course, for this to become a genuine use case for the app, rather than the occasional happenstance, Jelly would have to implement features that would allow users (i.e., reporters) to surface the questions they want to track. Today, the app has favoriting, but there’s no way to follow questions by topic, keyword or specific people (beyond following them or someone in their network on social media first).

That means, today, the only way to catch breaking news on Jelly would be to be obsessively using Jelly in your every spare moment, in order to see a large number of questions. Oh wait, well…that might not be a problem after all, now that I think about it.

Update: One person is suggesting the leak was planted!

More likely is that Biz’s involvement in Branch means there’s crossover between those friendly with and knowledgeable about those startups. This is similar to Quora, where a number of insider-y posts about the tech industry can be found.