Recently First Look Media announced that it was changing its business model and it would not be offering a suite of digital magazines. Instead, it will focus on The Intercept and an unnamed digital magazine to be run by Matt Taibbi. Several questions and concerns emerge from this approach. The first relates to the organisational structure and the second to the organisational ethos.
The organisational structure has to find a way to manage the egos, the conflicting storylines, and the conflicting audiences. To manage the conflict, there has to be a force at the centre of First Look to reconcile them or overrule them. Such a task is not for the fainthearted. First Look’s success will be as much about the back office as it will be the stories it produces. While the reader may not need to know this detail, potential investors will want to know.
Is New Look Media simply playing the Greenwald variations?
The underlying problem, at this stage, appears to be the heavy reliance on Mr Greenwald. To put it directly, what is First Look Media without The Intercept and what is The Intercept without Mr Greenwald? Mr Greenwald succeeds as much from his ability to attract and generate controversy as he does about the half-life of the Snowden material. The audience for these issues (Mr Greenwald and the NSA leaks) is limited to those who worry about law enforcement and national security intervention in the digital domain. The technologically elite, the hackers, are the core audience worried about the NSA and the apparent injustice of the national security monitoring on the web.
Is the organisational structure now a tale of the two towers?
First Look’s other digital magazine will be built around Matt Taibbi. Mr Taibbi, like Mr Greenwald is talented and knows how to attract and retain controversy. Yet, like Mr Greenwald, the question becomes what controversies remain where they have a comparative advantage. Mr. Greenwald has harvested “the privacy and government is watching field” while Mr Taibbi has ploughed the “financial sector are grifters” field. . Both have been skilled at finding the injustice to draw to the reader’s attention, but what remains?
What greater good do you create if all you collect are injustices?
At some point, the public, the audience, start to develop an injustice fatigue. Here is where First Look’s organisational ethos becomes important. If everyone is crooked and every one is on the make because everyone is on it then no one can feel outraged. If you are not suffering the injustice you are perpetrating it or abetting it so let us turn the page to something else. What is the greater good that New Look wants to achieve and who is directing the campaign to serve the greater good. Neither star has political experience in expanding the common or creating a good. The organisation itself does not serve the greater good simply by its existence. Thus, we find that hole in the organisational ethos that needs to be filled. If New Look is to deliver on its promise to serve the greater good, it has to move from harvesting injustices, to develop a positive programme. That destination is still undefined.