What investors saw in Ozy Media

A recent analysis from social media measurement firm Tubular Labs suggests that Ozy has spent a lot to increase the views of the videos he posted to YouTube by paying to have his videos automatically show on screen.

And even when Ozy came up with posts that his readers liked and shared in great numbers, he didn’t seem to try to replicate that success, according to a report from Garbage Day social media-focused newsletter. The articles that were widely shared were “articles on cookies, inspiring elephant stories and engaging fashion mini-docs,” the newsletter reported.

What was left, said a former employee with knowledge of the company’s analytics data, was an actual, albeit tiny, fanbase, but not the one Ozy liked to talk about. “Ozy’s classic demographic was a retired white teacher who used Ozy to stay young and awake and loved learning about the world,” the former employee said. Samir Rao, the company’s co-founder and COO, sometimes joked about using AARP as an advertiser, the former employee added.

Mr. Rao did not respond to a text message, and Mr. Watson denied the former employee’s claim. Ozy’s audience, he said, was “smart millennials and Gen X with a strong and growing dose of Gen Z.”

More generally, Mr. Watson took issue with a central challenge to his company’s claims: the idea that there was something misleading about presenting “The Carlos Watson Show” as a hit show when Ozy was in fact paying for it. views – effectively broadcasting its own programming. like an advertisement on YouTube.

Mr. Watson said that was not a problem. “Like all innovative companies (Netflix, Spotify, Tesla and more), we’ve definitely made a smart investment in marketing to make sure our top journalism and storytelling is presented to the right audience,” he said. “We didn’t just want to be subjected to the vagaries of algorithms, which is one of the many reasons Ozy appeals to advertisers.”

Now, investors and advertisers who have found validation in Ozy are leaving empty-handed. Employees are no longer paid. It was a sharp fall from a dream, promoted as recently as June to investors, according to a deck shared with me that said the company would be valued at $ 5 billion in 2025. (You could have bought from a valuation of only $ 450 million last summer.)

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