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Ben Smith, then editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News, speaks in 2019. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Calling legacy media "almost paralyzed," two of journalism's top disrupters —  Bloomberg's Justin Smith and Ben Smith of the New York Times — unveiled a long-secret idea for a richly-funded global news platform.

  • The Smiths either are very early in their planning or are cleverly disguising their intentions: No name was announced, and neither could say where the venture will be headquartered.
  • So far all they're saying is it will be new, globally focused — not social-media focused — and event heavy.

Why it matters: Despite the vagueness, the two unrelated Smiths have such track records atop American media that their departures from Bloomberg and the Times elicited intense media fascination.

  • Both news veterans resigned just this week, but already are reaching out to potential recruits.
  • Ben Smith's last day as the Times' media columnist is next Monday.
  • Justin Smith will stay on as an adviser to Bloomberg Media through March 15.

Driving the news: The new company aims to fill a void they say neither of their previous employers are capable of addressing, according to a memo obtained by Axios that Justin Smith sent to close confidants.

  • "Faced with the technological and societal disruptions of the past two decades, traditional editorial institutions have become almost paralyzed — operationally, politically, culturally," the memo says.
  • The target market is what they say are 200 million members of an "English-speaking, college-educated, professional class" around the world.
  • Justin Smith noted in an interview that the success of Netflix, while spanning across many languages, shows that there's a new affluent, global and digitally connected audience today that's willing to pay for high-quality content.

Between the lines: The business will go after some of the most valuable prospects for the Smiths' previous employers. Both the Times and Bloomberg court international customers for their digital subscriptions. Those are also top targets for the new business.

  • Justin Smith, who will be CEO of the new operation, told Axios that the venture will focus on digital consumer subscriptions and premium advertising. "The only traditional platform we're pursuing will be events," he said, noting the success of global forums hosted by Bloomberg Media.
  • Ben Smith, who will lead the outlet's newsroom, said he's thinking through what it means for a newsroom entering "a post-social media moment and in the news business."

The big picture: In his memo, Justin Smith argues that the global news business "hasn’t seen significant new entrants in more than 40 years," and that the leading incumbents, "often see the world through a domestic lens, the international market an afterthought."

  • The huge wire services — including AP, Reuters and Bloomberg — are very much rooted in global reporting. But the New York Times and the Washington Post are pushing to get ahead. The Times announced last quarter that it now has over 1 million digital-only international subscribers.

What to watch: The duo aims to launch the new venture by the end of the year.

  • For now, Justin Smith will be self-funding the business while he finalizes late-stage talks with "individuals" who have "high integrity and great business acumen" about long-term investments, instead of venture-type investors.

Go deeper: Read the full memo below.

Go deeper

Jan 12, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Progressive data startup Civitech raises $10M

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Civitech, a public benefit corporation building data tools for progressive candidates and causes, is raising over $10 million in a series A funding round led by Higher Ground Labs, an investment group backing progressive campaign tech companies.

Why it matters: The investment signals a renewed focus on down-ballot data and technology to help Democrats recruit local candidates ahead of this fall's midterms. The round values Civitech at $50 million, executives tell Axios.

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

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