Danforth: Another reminder to always do your homework | Opinion


Don’t skip “required” homework. Or else.

The “inescapable” duty here was to research “Ozymandias”. You would have found a bit of a king in mythology, and a statue that collapsed a long time ago.

You would also have found an episode of “Breaking Bad” titled “Ozymandias”. It should have been a clue.

So if later in life if you had come across a potential media company named Ozy Media, a buzzer would have sounded in a far corner of your brain. You would have been especially vigilant if you had been invited to work on it on videos for YouTube or other gadgets of a 21st century media company, including stories, podcasts or TV interviews.

Television, you know, has two parts. The first is the studio where you work or play, or where the audience awaits applause. Then there’s the part you don’t see: the transmission lines, the broadcast towers, and now the cable network connections that take your programming and “put it on TV”.

What if you started working at Ozy in 2013 when it was a new start-up looking for a new and young audience? He grew steadily, even warmly. You had the backing of a group of Silicon Valley’s top funders, including even Laurene Powell Jobs of Emerson Collective and some $ 40 million more. The company has attracted an MSNBC presenter to lead it. Carlos Watson was trained as a banker, backers from Goldman Sachs and an MSNBC program. He was both charismatic and black. And he had degrees from Stanford and Harvard.

But – small detail – you were always looking for the key proof of success that would prove that your cutting edge journalism and TV interview shows had an audience. This would be necessary to attract publicity, which would reimburse Silicon Valley investors, who all thought they were betting on the next big deal.

Above all, you were careful to avoid a big mistake, like telling a big investor that you had scheduled a show on the A&E network that did not exist. An alert executive and Ozy’s arrival had done his homework, contacting A&E just to confirm the lineup. Whoops.

Ozy Media survived for eight years until a staff member masqueraded as a YouTube executive in a Zoom money appeal to some Goldman sharks. Our alert new executive had signed on as executive producer (he had already won an Emmy) for a weekly interview show with Watson, which surely could be a hit on A&E – if A&E had agreed to air it weekly.

The New York Times got wind of hot air at Ozy Media. Her story last Friday frightened major investors, including Ms. Powell-Jobs. A few others have left, including the MSNBC producer who quit with a note warning Ozy to play games with the truth.

Suddenly, the air was gone from Ozy’s tires in just a day or two. The serious breach came when Goldman believed he was speaking to a YouTube official who said Ozy’s videos were a success. Identity theft, which turned out to be a bit of a stunt, isn’t something you try as a TV executive pitch.

The missing truth, as it turned out, was it. Even though he had appeared almost inadvertently. Here he caught the thunder of an unstoppable snowball. He had peaked at exactly the wrong time. Katty Kay, a star BBC presenter had been drawn to Ozy by her promise of new young audiences and new avenues of programming. Now she’s out. Ms Kay had worked for the British broadcaster for three decades, so her departure left traces too visible to clean up.

The Ozy fiasco happened at a still relatively small company. It had only 50 employees and largely operated on investor funds. From a certain point of view, this came across as the weaknesses of a showmaker growing fast enough to stumble badly in keeping tasks in their proper order – like winning a deal with a point of sale before you did. guarantee. It also carried the familiar cadence of venture capital advice, “Pretend Until You Do.”

The phrase doesn’t match a British accent very well, so Ms Kay would have had some time to translate it for her friends in London. The British have a cover sentence for such unexpected results. “Oh, no luck,” they will say. Without further comment.

The writer ([email protected]) is one of the founders of Aspen Daily News and his column appears here on Sundays.

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