After nearly two years as The New York Times’ media columnist, Ben Smith is on the move again, set to become the new editor-in-chief for a new media startup from departing Bloomberg Media chief Justin Smith. The duo's transitions made headlines on Jan. 4, with Justin outlining his plans for the new outlet in an email to The Wall Street Journal.
“The news industry is facing a crisis in consumer trust and confidence due to the distorting influence of social media and rising levels of polarization and parochialism,” Justin wrote in the email. “My plan is to launch a premium news business that serves unbiased journalism to a global audience and provides a high-quality platform for the best journalists in the world.”
Ben Smith says the newsroom will serve “200 million people who are college-educated [and] who read in English”
The New York Times named Ben Smith as media columnist in Jan. 2020 after he had spent eight years as editor-in-chief at BuzzFeed News following a stint as reporter at Politico. At BuzzFeed News, Ben started “a world-class, global news organization in less than a decade,” as CEO Jonah Peretti observed at the time of Ben’s exit, reports The New York Times.
During his tenure at The New York Times, Ben reported on harassment accusations against the chief editor of German newspaper Bild and the downfall of Ozy Media. “What makes Ben special is that he is a commentator who also deeply reports,” New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet said in a statement. “That’s a pretty rare combination in media writing today.”
Now, Ben has his sights on a global newsroom: “There are 200 million people who are college-educated, who read in English, but who no one is really treating like an audience, but who talk to each other and talk to us,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “That’s who we see as our audience.”
Justin Smith is making “a big bet” that those readers are “more like each other than their individual countrymen”
Justin’s track record, meanwhile, includes his work helping to start the U.S. edition of The Week, founding the website portfolio Breaking Media, and launching Quartz during his time at Atlantic Media. Since he joined Bloomberg Media in 2013, he and his team “delivered exceptional results powered by product innovations, with 2021 representing the high-water mark in terms of Bloomberg Media’s historical performance,” Bloomberg LP founder Michael Bloomberg said.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Justin’s former boss David Bradley said that Justin has “always talked about a market of 200 million college-educated, English-speaking professionals throughout the world” and is now making the “big bet …that they’re more like each other than their individual countrymen.”
Bradley also said that the new startup—currently referred to as "Project Coda"—will likely feature digital content, email newsletters, video, and podcasts. As The New York Times reports, there’s no word on when the new outlet would begin publishing or how much money Ben Smith and Justin Smith intend to raise to fund the venture.