Nine months ago the media world was treated to intense hyperventilation as billionaire Pierre Omidyar and lone ranger journalist Glenn Greenwald launched First Look Media. From the start, the project was light on details–in fact the best explanation came from non-employee/consultant Jay Rosen. Yet, all we really knew for sure was that Omidyar had committed $250 million to the project and Greenwald would be part of it.
In the time since its announcement hoo-hah, First Look has suffered from a general failure to launch. Yes, The Intercept has launched, but it remains a stunningly low-tech site with few significant scoops and no visible new ideas on how to interact with readers or create a sustainable business. Matt Tabibi, another great journalist, was brought on in early June, but his planned publication has changed from “a publication focusing on financial and political corruption” to “a satirical approach to American politics and culture.” That seems like a big change, without much explanation doesn’t it?
It’s too early to question Greenwald’s, Taibbi’s or Omidyar’s commitment to the project, after all nobody’s left the project and Omidyar’s blog post yesterday reflects what seem to be some deep thought on the best way to do things. The title of Omidyar’s post says, “First Look is Still Very Much a Startup.” They’re experimenting. That’s good.
But the thing about media experiments is that they require audiences to test the theory. So what are they doing to build an audience? Other news media projects actively test their models with the outside world. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. SB Nation, NSFWCORP, Pando Daily, Buzzfeed and The Information have/had considerably less funding than First Look Media, but they certainly seem to be doing a lot of experimenting.
When will First Look ante up and start testing something real?