A new twist in the rise and fall of Ozy Media: an attempt to rise again. After the company's board on Friday announced Ozy was immediately shuttering following bombshell reporting from Ben Smith at the New York Times, Ozy CEO Carlos Watson told the Today show on Monday that the doors were staying open. "We're going to open for business, so we're making news today. This is our Lazarus moment, if you will, this is our Tylenol moment. Last week was traumatic, it was difficult, heartbreaking in many ways." Watson said operations were indeed suspended on Friday, and the plan was "to wind down.
But "over the weekend we talked to advertising partners, we talked to some of our readers, some of our viewers, our listeners, our investors." Smith's reporting alleged long-running deception directed at investors, advertisers, and the media. As for the call with Goldman Sachs in which COO Samir Rao allegedly pretended to be a YouTube executive, Watson said he wasn't on that call and wasn't aware of what Rao had planned to do.
In the aftermath of the call, Goldman declined to invest in Ozy, but Watson said that months later Goldman entered into a "new advertising partnership" with Ozy, which he described as proof that "Ozy has done some pretty special things when it comes to premium content, forward-looking content, and really a diverse set of audiences." Watson spoke to the Today show just as Smith published yet another piece on the company, a reflection on the handful of insights it provides "into the top tiers of the business world." But it's also based on part on a Zoom conversation Smith had with Watson on Sunday in which Watson "conceded nothing."
Still, Smith writes that as he has continued reporting on the story, he has surfaced more "instances of possible deception," including a company document that suggested an advertiser on The Carlos Watson Show would appear on Hulu, though the show didn't run on that platform. Another document featured a laudatory quote from the Times that Smith couldn't confirm ever ran in the publication. Watson said he wasn't familiar with the document. "If we got it wrong, then that is unfortunate," he told Smith. (Read more Ozy Media stories.)