The problem is, what drives people to read content online is not what convinces people to sign production deals with modestly famous former news anchors. Ozy appears to have created a media outlet without any market research to figure out if there was any “there” there, but accepted money from different venture capital firms and advertisers as if they did.
He needed to essentially create a news outlet without clickbait, and when you do that, the result is that nobody ever clicks. (Nothing against Corey Stoll, he was great in the first season of House of Cards
, but ain’t nobody clicking this
because there’s no sizzle.) And they had to account for that at some point—and when they did, it dipped into something approaching fraud.
If Watson and team had set their ambitions 20 percent lower, they wouldn’t have had to rely on fakery to inflate the audience. Watson could have just built a production company for himself … but venture capitalists likely aren’t supporting production companies. Hence the conundrum.
Watson in some ways represents the challenging next steps facing former broadcast journalists in the digital world. He could have perhaps done well for himself by starting a podcast or a YouTube channel, but he went all in on media empire-building. And now, it’s looking increasingly likely that Ozy will see an implosion off the face of the internet in a matter of weeks.
You don’t piss off venture capitalists and advertisers in one fell swoop and survive.