If I were friends with Ezra Klein, I would tell him to keep his chin up this week. As you might have read, he’s leaving the Post and Wonkblog, effective immediately, to start his own media venture, after the Post decided they wouldn’t be interested in investing a reported $10 million and hiring three dozen people to help him do it.
The general consensus is that Klein is going to need more luck than funding to make this work.
It’s not going to be easy — as many have pointed out — relying on advertising and his brand won’t be enough. John McDermott over at Digiday points out that Re/Code’s Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg need to charge thousands of dollars for conference tickets to make it work, Grantland has ESPN’s big name to draw national brands, Glenn Greenwald has a billionaire backer and Andrew Sullivan is, well, Andrew Sullivan.
— Matt Beckmann (@mlbeckmann) January 21, 2014
I agree that it looks like a bit of bubble, that only so many will be able to succeed. But why shouldn’t Klein be one of them? To start, I think whatever he was planning when he asked the Post for funding needs to be scaled down. I’m talking a dozen staffers instead of that three. But, as John Cassidy over at the New Yorker writes, Klein understands what he’s getting into, and it could be worth it:
Klein’s new venture may be as much about promoting and delivering interesting content as creating it. That will make it intriguing to watch, but not necessarily any less risky—or any less of a competitive threat to the Post, should it succeed. If I had the resources of Bezos, I think I would have taken the plunge and backed Klein’s ambitions, but I can understand why he didn’t. He spent two hundred and fifty million dollars on thePost—a large sum, even to him, and the primary challenge is to leverage and expand the content it already produces. Among other things, it needs to protect the Wonkblog franchise that Klein created and replicate it in other areas, particularly politics, where it has ceded far too much ground to Politico.
I hate to bring in age but to me it seems like an important sidenote. Klein is 29 years old and has been all over his niche, apparently, since birth. He lives and breathes his beat just as much as he lives the digital media industry he operates in, and on some level, sustains. He’s also reportedly * already signing other smart, niche-focused, people with him. It’s risky to leave the Post and start your own multi-million dollar company. But the Post needs to continue to innovate what it does. And Klein, and other brave souls like him, need to keep stepping away from slow moving media giants and do what digital media natives need to do. It’s going to be hard, but it’s not a crazy idea.
* Update: Yea, he is. Haters will hate, but these guys know what they’re doing. It will be fun to watch.
What do you think about the DIY digital media company ‘bubble’?