new-media

Hello again

As you may have heard (or read), I am leaving Bloomberg. I’d like to try and explain why.

I never wrote a goodbye letter when I left Vox and The Verge. So maybe this can kill two big birds with one big stone. Although I am generally against the murder of animals.

First, some background.

You may not know this about me so I will tell you: I love building new things. I love looking at tough problems and figuring out a way to make them work. I love making something beautiful and useful and smart and engaging. I love the potential I see in news and media and modern storytelling and how that works on the web / mobile / apps / whatever — but I don’t often love what I see being done with it. And I get particularly bored and anxious when I feel like I’m not working towards making something more interesting than the last thing I made.

We made something unbelievable at The Verge from scratch, and built Vox into a new kind of beast in media — but there was still so much more that could be done. That I wanted to do.

A little over a year ago when I first talked to Justin Smith and Josh Tyrangiel about going to Bloomberg, I was skeptical. Why would I leave something I started and owned — which also happened to be hugely successful — to go to a behemoth of a corporation like Bloomberg? Why would I leave my friends and second family at Vox to start something new?

But little by little, I became convinced that something incredible was brewing at Bloomberg. I was already enamored with Businessweek and what Josh had done with that magazine as editor (you can be sure it came up in Verge meetings all the time). And their idea about Bloomberg was massive. The idea that you could harness the enormous and magnificent resources of the company on the media and news side was electric. Remember, this is a company with literally thousands of journalists in almost every corner of the world, a TV network, radio, multiple magazines… and more than just a little bit of money.

It was too huge, too crazy, and too interesting to say no to. So I said yes, and it was one of the best decisions of my life.

Fast forward twelve months, and so much of what I wanted to do at the company has come to pass. We accomplished ridiculous things in a tiny period of time.

Let this sink in a bit: we launched two completely new (award-winning, beautiful, inventive) websites and founded our first regional site (hi Europe!); hit new traffic records (like surpassing the WSJ for the first time); became the leader in business digital video (we grew audiences nearly 350% YoY); nearly doubled our social traffic (all time highs in every metric, a 358% increase in Facebook traffic YoY); PLUS we saw double digit revenue growth in digital.

But more important than revenue or numbers, the editorial work I had a chance to be a part of was some of the strongest and most interesting stuff anyone anywhere has been doing. Things like Paul Ford’s outrageously great What is Code, data viz storytelling like This Is How Fast America Changes Its Mind and our 2015 Weed Index, or our 80’s-drenched oral history of junk bond kings, a feature about mutant big game hunting in South Africa, the tale of a sad drill in Seattle, or, you know, this insane Paul Krugman thing. To say nothing of the killer photo essays we did for Pursuits, or the fantastic new video our team has been creating. The list goes on and on. We’ve been making a lot of cool shit.

But the last few months have been difficult for me. I started to feel a desire to go even further, beyond the shores of business-focused coverage (this is Bloomberg after all), into the broader, weirder, and nerdier side of my interests — something I knew might not be a perfect fit for that audience. I think launching a new podcast on my own (Tomorrow, for those of you who don’t know), was an attempt to scratch that itch. But that wasn’t enough: I wanted to do more and it was clear that it wasn’t going to be possible to do that work from inside the Bloomberg offices.

I love the people I have had a chance to work with and what we’ve made, but I also knew I had to move on.

And I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my industry.

The reality in media right now is that there is an enormous amount of noise. There are countless outlets (both old and new) vying for your attention, desperate not just to capture some audience, but all the audience. And in doing that, it feels like there’s a tremendous watering down of the quality and uniqueness of what is being made. Everything looks the same, reads the same, and seems to be competing for the same eyeballs. In both execution and content, I find myself increasingly frustrated with the rat race for maximum audience at any expense. It’s cynical and it’s cyclical — which makes for an exhausting and frankly boring experience.

I think people want something better, something more meaningful. Something a lot less noisy.

We made incredible and innovative things at The Verge and Vox Media, we made incredible and innovative things at Bloomberg, but I don’t think I got even close to what’s possible. I don’t think I’ve scratched the surface.

So, time to get to work.

RE: tidal

On some real shit though, people don’t know how hard it is to have a successful streaming music business. 

I worked in that industry for 6-7 years. I’ve sat in countless meetings, and eavesdropped on countless conversations involving the CEO and head of product (lol). 

People just don’t want to pay for music, period. 

Did you know that Spotify is not a profitable business? They’re still losing money. 

Spotify is crushing the competition. They dwarf all of their competitors in brand awareness and paying subscribers. And they still aren’t turning a profit. 

here’s the point of my post though… Spotify isn’t turning a profit and they launched in 2008, so how can Tidal be a “flop” after 3 months?

This is a long game. A long hustle. And it involves re-conditioning the public to believe that music is something worth paying for. That takes years. Its not something that can be achieved in a few months. 

Full Disclosure: I was talking shit about Tidal last night but that was strictly for the lulz