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Ozy Media isn’t shutting down after all.
“We are going to open for business, so we are making news today,” Watson told NBC’s Craig Melvin. “This is our Lazarus moment, if you will [a reference to the biblical figure who Jesus brought back to life a few days after his death].”
Watson said that they made the decision after speaking with Ozy advertisers and the company’s investors.
“Last week was traumatic, it was difficult, heartbreaking in many ways. And at the end of the week we did suspend operations with a plan to wind down,” Watson said. “But as we spent time over the weekend, and we talked to advertising partners, some of our readers, some of our viewers, some of our listeners, some of our investors, I think Ozy is part of this moment.”
He added later in the interview that Ozy’s board consisted of himself and GSV Ventures co-founder Michael Moe, but he could not divulge who was currently funding the company.
Still, Watson did suggest that Ozy would change some of its ways.
“The last couple of days gave a lot of people a chance to take cheap shots, and that’s not to say there aren’t things that we could do better,” he said. “We need to do better on data, we need to do better on marketing, and I think there are some things we could do better on leadership and culture.”
But he also took umbrage at some of the news coverage in the last week.
“When you saw people start to put my name in the lede alongside [Theranos founder] Elizabeth Holmes, who never had a real product, who raised billions of dollars?” Watson said. “We have five newsletters that go out to millions of people, a dozen TV shows including one that won an Emmy. That is not a house of cards.”
And then there was the call with Goldman Sachs, the incident in Ben Smith’s New York Times column that broke open the dam of coverage around the digital media company. Smith wrote that Ozy co-founder Samir Rao impersonated a YouTube executive while on a fundraising call with the bank.
“That is a tragic situation, it is horrible, nothing good about that at all,” Watson told Melvin. “I am grateful that Goldman didn’t invest, because that would have been the worst of all.”
Still, he added: “Several months later, they stepped forward and began a new advertising partnership with us, and I think part of that is the recognition that as tragic as that was, the larger company Ozy has done some pretty special things when it comes to premium content, forward-looking content and reaching a diverse set of audiences.”
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