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July 28, 2014, 2:30 p.m.
Business Models
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Justin Ellis   |   July 28, 2014

pierre-omidyarFirst Look Media is changing up its launch plans and publishing strategy, stepping back from the concept of multiple digital “magazines” in favor of strengthening The Intercept and the forthcoming Matt Taibbi project and trying smaller experiments.

As originally planned, First Look was to be home to a “family of digital magazines” that would cover specific topics like politics, sports, and business, among others. The Intercept, launched in February by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill, was the blueprint: Gather smart journalists and develop a magazine around them.

But in a blog post today, founder/funder Pierre Omidyar says they’re shifting that idea:

The big question we’ve been exploring over the past few months is how best to achieve our ambitious long-terms goals. We have definitely rethought some of our original ideas and plans. For example, rather than building one big flagship website, we’ve concluded that we will have greater positive impact if we test more ideas and grow them based on what we learn. We are unwavering in our desire to reach a mass audience, but the best way to do that may be through multiple experiments with existing digital communities rather than trying to draw a large audience to yet another omnibus site.

And rather than immediately launching a large collection of digital “magazines” based on strong, expert journalists with their own followings, as we imagined earlier, we’ll begin by building out the two we’ve started and then explore adding new ones as we learn.

Omidyar, drawing on his experience in the world of tech, says First Look is approaching journalism with a “startup spirit” and that the company will be an experimental mode for several years. One area he mentions is “being part of well-defined communities of interest, understanding the people in them and serving their needs and aspirations in new ways.”

On the technology side, Omidyar said First Look is running a pilot program of a small grants to test ideas and experiments that harness “the potential of technology and journalism to serve the greater good.”

While First Look made a big splash when the company was announced, and later with the introduction of The Intercept, the company has been relatively quiet outside of hiring moves in the intervening months. Eric Bates, First Look’s executive editor, told Capital in February, “We don’t, at least initially, have to try to feed the beast at some frantic pace and that serves the journalism as well.”

In one of his first acts as editor-in-chief of The Intercept, John Cook told readers the site would be fairly quiet aside from NSA reporting while they focus on staffing and other issues. In April, Omidyar pulled together a group of journalism and technology experts to help guide First Look’s plan for the future.

For the journalist who already joined up with First Look — Omidyar says it’s 25 and could be 50 by end of the year — the new strategy might be a change on what they were promised: A collection of reporter-driven, digital-focused media properties.

Lab contributor C. W. Anderson poses a good question, for which First Look advisor Jay Rosen has an answer:

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