The smell of money burning: trying to build a tower from the top down
The Intercept is funded by First Look Media’s nonprofit arm. It has delivered regular hard-hitting stories since its launch February 2014. “You can think of The Intercept as our version of ProPublica,” says Bloom, referring to another nonprofit that supports investigative public interest journalism. First Look’s nonprofit arm also supports its only other media property, a small experimental project called Reported.ly.
'The idea is that it is important work. We think we have a way to make it a sustainable property.'
Michael Bloom, First Look Media President
In addition to running this operation, Omidyar has charged Bloom with building a companion for-profit business that will support the entire enterprise. Bloom envisions building what he calls “the world’s leading platform for the most compelling independent voices.” He believes the future includes all manner of media—videos, photos, shorter posts, podcasts. He’ll broaden the scope of the company to include “arts, culture, media, entertainment, possibly even comedy and sports.” Any voice, he explains, that’s outside of the mainstream. By this, he means that First Look is well-positioned to support the creators of counterculture: activists and artists with strong opinions of any sort—right or left—who seek to express those opinions through media. It stems from Omidyar’s feverish belief in the importance of supporting free speech.
Bloom anticipates that First Look will meet directly with media creators to figure out what they need and help them with it, much like a literary agent helps its authors, say, or the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz supports its entrepreneurs. If they need an editor, First Look will offer it. If they need a video studio, say, or office space, done. “We’re going to produce content for our own platforms and for others,” he says. “The HBOs, Netflixes, Hulus of the world.” The objective is to give writers, filmmakers, and producers the place and tools they need to “create their most ambitious work,” and then help them build and make money off of their audiences. It’s not clear just how First Look will do this yet—perhaps advertising or subscription or partnerships with other media companies—but Bloom reminds me that he’s very early in his tenure. He won’t go into the specifics of how he plans to execute this, though he says we’ll begin to see new products starting this fall.