It Is ‘Premature’ to Know Almost Anything About the Smiths’ New Media Venture

Benjamin Mullin of the Wall Street Journal broke today’s biggest media news:

Bloomberg Media Chief Executive Justin Smith stepped down effective immediately to found a new media company, and tapped New York Times media columnist Ben Smith to lead its future newsroom.

“The news industry is facing a crisis in consumer trust and confidence due to the distorting influence of social media and rising levels of polarization and parochialism,” Justin Smith said in an email Tuesday. “My plan is to launch a premium news business that serves unbiased journalism to a global audience and provides a high-quality platform for the best journalists in the world.”

The New Yorker’s Lauren Collins on Twitter:


MAN leaving news org to start news org with MAN. “We will miss MAN,” MAN said. MAN took over column from MAN, who succeeded other MAN. MAN pubbed report on MAN compiled by MAN, which led to inquiry by MAN. “MAN helped transform media,” said MAN.

Collins wrote this in the context of the New York Times’ story about this news, but surely it applies equally to Mullin’s coverage.

Clare Malone, of the New Yorker, asked Ben Smith some good questions but received frustratingly empty answers (Malone’s questions are italicized):

Do you have any people whom you see as competitors in mind? For those of us who are not in your and Justin’s mind — the two Mr. Smiths — what is it?

We’re thinking more about the audience than about competitors, I would say. And I think there is a big audience of people who are dissatisfied with their current options. There’s a lot of research that suggests that, for sort of a range of overlapping reasons.

Like what? Tell me more about that.

I think there are a lot of people who want to be treated with respect. We want to serve the highest common denominator, and I think there’s an opportunity for that.

Sometimes, being vague is tantalizing; sometimes, it is just being vague. What does Smith — the Ben one — really mean when he says that they are seeking an audience within the English-speaking world of “200 million people who are college educated”? Is that not pretty much how every English-language broadsheet newspaper or bookish magazine would describe itself? Nevertheless, I am interested in this venture, if only because I really like Ben Smith’s work.

I am particularly interested in this concept of respect for readers. Does that mean this media outlet will be one of very few that does not interrupt your reading with a prompt to subscribe to its newsletter? Perhaps it will not have third-party tracking, or precisely target audiences using third-party data, right? The Markup has proved that media outlets can respect readers in all of these ways. Will the Smiths follow suit?