Ozy Media is closing its doors just a week after most of us find out about it
In the space of six days and five New York Times reports from media columnist Ben Smith, Ozy Media has gone from being a largely unknown content producer to close its doors. The eight-year-old media startup was unrecognizable to most. It operated anonymously despite a roster that included well-known reporters, prominent guests who appeared on CEO Carlos Watson’s show, or New York subway passengers who were sometimes inundated with commercials for his Ozyfest event. .
If you don’t follow too many journalists on Twitter, you might not have heard of them, but last weekend the first New York Times report revealed two shocking things about Ozy Media. First, this co-founder and COO, Samir Rao, held a conference call with Goldman Sachs bankers about a potential $ 40 million investment and posed as a YouTube executive. extolling the virtues of the Ozy Media video channel. Second, after the deception was revealed, Ozy Media’s management blamed it on a mental health issue and allowed Rao to remain in his managerial position.
The next day, Carlos Watson tweeted that it was a “successful job” and underlined the reasons for considering Ben Smith to be too much in conflict to report on the company. Smith still owns a share of Buzzfeed, and Watson said that at the end of 2019, as Buzzfeed editor-in-chief, Smith attempted to organize negotiations to acquire Ozy Media.
Heartbroken by NYTimes’ ridiculous blow. But we are strong and fearless. Building something new, fresh, and worthy is not for the weak. Here is what I sent to our team. pic.twitter.com/qcH4m9zqM2
– Carlos Watson (@carloswatson) September 27, 2021
Over the next few days, more stories told by Ozy Media and Watson began to unfold.
That includes pretty much all of the claims about its reach and traffic (a site claiming to have 25 million newsletter subscribers should be better known) and its claims that public figures like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D- NY) before other points of sale. While these claims have been echoed in reports like this article on Axes, Niéman Laboratory reporter Joshua Benton investigation and found that even in the cases cited by Ozy, its coverage came months or years after the topics had been covered extensively in mainstream publications.
Watson told reporters on CNBC that after a dispute over the name of his festival, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne started investing in the site. This week Sharon Osbourne said CNBC that they were never shareholders and called Watson “the greatest con artist I have ever seen in my life”.
A former producer of the Carlos Watson show has revealed that his high-profile guests have been told the show will air on A&E and that it is part of the YouTube Original package. A spokesperson for the network told the New York Times that A&E said no to the show before the recording began. A magazine-style ad for Ozy Media appeared in The New York Times with a large slogan crediting Date line with a statement referring to Watson as “the best interviewer on television”. As this tweet points out, the ad does not mention that these words appeared on Date line as a quote from Samir Rao, COO of Ozy.
In recent days, former BBC reporter Katty Kay has publicly resigned, advertisers have run for the hills and its chairman Marc Lasry – owner of NBA world champion Milwaukee Bucks – resigned just three weeks after. take the job. This morning, Watson resigned of the board of directors of the national public radio. Then, this afternoon, news broke that Ozy was in the process of shutting down completely.