Ozy Media Faces Withering Criticism After NY Times Expose: ‘What an Obvious Scam’

Media industry workers discussed whether ”Ozy is a mirage of a media company“

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Ozy Media came under fire Monday, with criticism bleeding into Tuesday, after a New York Times column accused the company of inflating its web and video numbers.

“Ozy CEO’s memo to staff, from about 12 hours ago, has received very little traction on social… which sorta underscores the point of @benyt’s column, that Ozy is a mirage of a media company,” tweeted CNN’s Brian Stelter, including the statement from CEO Carlos Watson that called the column a “hitjob.”

Hamilton Nolan, who serves as the Columbia Journalism Review’s public editor for the Washington Post, added, “Journalism is a field where people who are good at writing and reporting get paid $60k to produce news, and ‘Media’ is a field where people who are good at nothing get paid a million dollars to trick rich people into losing money.”

He linked to the Times story, which revealed the details of a phone call with Goldman Sachs investors in which Ozy co-founder Samir Rao pretended to be a Google executive. Watson has said Rao was having a mental health crisis and coverage of it is unkind.

Krystal Ball, who, like Watson, was once an anchor on MSNBC, said, “It’s amazing what an obvious scam Ozy is. Look at the stats for this YouTube video. 90k views but only 12 likes and a single comment in which someone points out what an obvious scam it is.”

Watson spoke to TheWrap Monday and, in addition to defending Rao and calling the Times piece “a bullsh– ad hominem attack,” disputed that Ozy has overstated its web and video stream figures. He said the company’s revenue last year rose to $50 million, and came primarily from non-web properties including newsletters, podcasts, TV shows and Facebook and YouTube streams. Live festivals, another important revenue stream for the company, have been on hiatus during COVID. 

Among the criticism of Ozy on Monday and Tuesday were numerous people questioning the company’s reach. A few pointed out they’d never seen Ozy content shared organically.

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