• Lab
  • AndroidForMobile Foundation at
    Bad news from Mashable, BuzzFeed, and Vice shows times are rough for ad-supported digital media
    ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
    Oct. 28, 2014, 3:23 p.m.
    Reporting & Production

    The near future of First Look’s next site, Racket, looks fuzzy

    The site, promised as a “satirical approach to American politics and culture,” was set to launch this month, but now it’s unclear when or if it’ll get off the ground.

    reported for earlier today that Matt Taibbi has gone missing (update: ) from First Look’s New York offices “after disagreements with higher-ups inside Omidyar’s organization,” where he’s supposed to be launching new digital political satire rag Racket.

    Sources confirmed that Taibbi has been absent from the office for several weeks, only returning on one brief occasion to address the staff. Although those hired have been reassured that the project would continue on during the unspecified term of Taibbi’s absence, the the launch date for Racket — which Taibbi indicated in September would be coming “in a month” — now appears to have been pushed off.

    “We have a target date but I wouldn’t make a launch date public,” said Temple, who is based in San Francisco, when reached by phone this morning. “I don’t comment about internal matters and I don’t comment on personnel matters….I mean we’re a private company, so why would we…no.”

    first-look-logoI had the chance to sit down with both Taibbi and Racket staffer to talk about Racket earlier this month in New York. We talked about launch strategy, which they were developing in hopes of a soft launch this month followed by a fuller launch in winter. Taibbi and Pareene described a publication in the spirit of , , and ; they also praised and . The digital magazine would include longform writing and short videos, but also pranks, inside jokes, and stunts. The pair envisioned their team as a group of renegades, shaking a fist both at the rich and powerful and at other media companies as well.

    But when I followed up with Racket later to clarify details regarding their plans and the management of First Look, I couldn’t get any response from either Taibbi or Pareene. Eventually, when I stressed that I was eager to write a story prior to their launch, I heard from , a newly hired managing editor at First Look. By phone, Hurd said Taibbi was unavailable, and in a later email he wrote:

    The initial launch date has been moved and we are rethinking strategy, as you mentioned. If you can continue to hold off, we’d appreciate it. Once things are better set, we can update you on the facts for sure.

    Rice’s reporting confirms suspicion that plans for Racket’s launch have run into trouble. Pando Daily’s wrote a about First Look rumors — including the of — saying he had contacted Taibbi, who denied that he was struggling to cooperate with management.

    The launch of The Intercept, First Look’s first digital magazine, was also less than smooth. After some initial stories, the blog stopped publishing. Editor-in-chief ultimately addressed these concerns after Carr wrote an article for Pando . Cook said the purpose of the hold was to focus on resolving “questions about the site’s broader focus, operational strategy, structure, and design.” NYU professor Jay Rosen, who , was surprised by Taibbi’s departure.

    I reached out to Alex Pareene for comment on Racket’s future and have not heard back. Perhaps the missing Taibbi will be found and asked for further explication tonight; he’s this evening in New York.

    POSTED     Oct. 28, 2014, 3:23 p.m.
    SEE MORE ON Reporting & Production
    Show comments  
    Show tags
    Join the 45,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
    Bad news from Mashable, BuzzFeed, and Vice shows times are rough for ad-supported digital media
    The rapid growth of Google and Facebook continues to take its toll on digital media companies.
    Asking members to support its journalism (no prizes, no swag), The Guardian raises more reader revenue than ad dollars
    The Guardian revamped its ask and its membership offerings — moving from 12,000 members in the beginning of 2016 to 300,000 today.
    Beating the 404 death knell: Singapore news startups struggle to cover costs and find their footing
    Political news reporting doesn’t seem to be holding up well as a business in the city-state. And it’s even harder when you’re seen as “alternative” media.