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Media Meltdowns

The Media Smiths Have A Bold New Idea

Drew Angerer/Getty Images


“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,” Ben Smith said in an interview. “That’s who we see as our audience.”

That's Ben Smith, lately the media columnist for The New York Times, to The New York Times, on why he is leaving The New York Times to join a startup news organization with Justin Smith (no relation), formerly the CEO of Bloomberg Media. The "we" in that quote refers to their new company, code-named "Project Coda"; Project Coda's Smiths see as their audience the 200 million college-educated English-readers out there, and also see, somehow, that no one really treats those 200 million college-educated English-readers as an audience. One of Project Coda's Smiths, just to reiterate, just spent around two years drawing a paycheck as a media critic for The New York Times. Decide for yourself which of the two companies this group of facts reflects more poorly upon.

At last! A news publication targeted toward an audience of 200 million college-educated readers of English, who talk to each other and talk to, uh, whoever "us" is in that quote. And not a moment too soon. Once you get past the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic, the New Yorker, New York magazine, Harpers, Time, the National Review, the New Republic, Insider, the Intercept, ProPublica, the Columbia Journalism Review, the Weekly Standard, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones, the Federalist, the Nation, Jacobin, the Washington Examiner, the Hill, Reason, the Daily Beast, and, what the hell, Ozy, the crop of news organizations geared toward the 200 million college-educated English-readers of the world does get pretty thin.

Ah, wait, I forgot about the The New York Times, the richest, most prominent, and most prestigious English-language news publication there is, whose leaders conceive of its mission explicitly and to a fault as servicing an audience of college-educated readers of the English language, and which Ben Smith is leaving for this new venture. Shit! I also forgot to mention all of Bloomberg's various productions and publications, the executive leadership of which the other Smith guy controlled for over eight years. But yes, once you get past pretty much every entry you'd find on any list of the wealthiest, most widely circulated, most powerful news organizations in the anglophone world, as well as virtually every venture-backed English-language press outlet or news organization launched this millennium, and an overwhelming majority of subscription blogs (including, frankly, this one!), and each miserable one of the hordes of preening fake-contrarian newsletters launched by self-canceled morons and Intellectual Dark Web charlatans... it gets pretty thin after that. In terms of naming media companies or news organizations focused on capturing the attention and servicing the interests of the 200 million college-educated readers of English. (And also in terms of naming any remaining media companies or news organizations at all.)

I for one look forward to being reminded of Project Coda's existence 18 months from now, by way of a news item announcing Ben Smith's hiring as Chief Ideation Officer of the Substack founder guy's new blockchain-based web3 news company, and to being sort of vaguely baffled for approximately 24 minutes by questions of what exactly it is and for whom exactly it is intended, and then moving on with my life. In the meantime, please enjoy some of those 200 million college-educated English readers sharing their tremendous excitement at the announcement:

Finally, a news organization for people like these!

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