Semafor news site makes debut, intent on reinventing news

Oct 18, 2022, 3:05 AM | Updated: 7:42 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — The media organization Semafor launched on Tuesday with no less an ambition than reinventing the news story.

Semafor is the brainchild of Ben Smith — former media reporter for The New York Times and, before that, former editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed — and Justin Smith, ex-CEO of Bloomberg Media. Since both men — who are not related — quit their previous jobs in January, Semafor has raised $25 million and hired more than 50 staff members.

Semafor’s website, with a distinctive yellow-tinged backdrop that looks like a newspaper left out in the sun, went live shortly after 6 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, with eight newsletters in place as well as an events business.

“We see, and are very excited about, a big opportunity to create a new and high-quality, independent global news brand that is obsessed with solving a number of big consumer frustrations that we see in the news business, primarily polarization,” said Justin Smith, the new company’s CEO.

The founders also believe people suffer from information overload. While another media organization may seem an odd way to deal with that issue, they envision Semafor helping consumers make sense of all that’s out there.

Stories contain separate sections that present the news, the author’s analysis, a counter to that viewpoint, perspective on how the issue is seen elsewhere in the world and a distillation of other stories on the topic.

“Really good reporters do analysis all the time,” said Gina Chua, executive editor, a post she formerly held at Reuters. “That’s great in a story but oftentimes readers don’t know where the facts stop and the analysis begins. What we’re doing is very clearly separating them out.”

It’s probably the highest-risk move Semafor is making, said Ben Smith, the organization’s editor-in-chief.

Among the stories Semafor offered at launch: a previously unreported accident at SpaceX that injured a rocket technician, by Reed Albergotti, formerly of the Washington Post; and an investor group’s campaign to force Coca-Cola into the garbage business, by Liz Hoffmann, formerly of the Wall Street Journal.

Ex-Washington Post writer David Weigel interviewed Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman and Ben Smith looked at his old shop, with a story about an identity crisis at The New York Times.

Ben Smith’s story was Semafor’s centerpiece on Tuesday morning, next to a welcome to readers that he also penned. A series of clocks on top of the site showed the time in various cities, including Washington, Dubai and Beijing. A map of the world sat in the upper right corner.

A breaking news column ran down the left side of the site and, on the right, readers were encouraged to sign up for various newsletters.

Ben Smith will author a newsletter on the media, and others will center on business, technology and climate. Semafor Flagship, the day’s main newsletter, will be written from London, while Semafor Principals will look at Washington’s power players.

The latter is currently considered the turf of Politico — another of Ben Smith’s former homes — and Axios, two of the century’s most successful media startups.

Events will also be a big part of Semafor’s business, and 11 have already been held. They include a series on trust in news, sponsored by the Knight Foundation, that featured Ben Smith’s interview with Tucker Carlson.

“It’s an extension of our journalism, it’s very very popular with clients and an important way to monetize news,” Justin Smith said.

Another event is planned for December, when many African leaders will be in Washington. Semafor is anticipating worldwide expansion, making Africa the first area overseas where it is investing in reporting.

At its start, the company is looking to make money through advertising and brand partnerships, said Rachel Oppenheim, chief revenue officer.

The news site, www.semafor.com, will be available for free initially. After a year, the company will look for ways to charge for its service, Justin Smith said.

“Ultimately, we believe we will have subscriptions over time,” he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Transgender activist Henry Edward Tse speaks to reporters outside of Court of Final Appeal in Hong ...
Associated Press

Hong Kong transgender men win appeal over status change

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s top court ruled Monday that full sex reassignment surgery should not be a prerequisite for transgender people to have their gender changed on their official identity cards, in a move that is likely to have a far-reaching impact on the transgender community. A transgender activist, Henry Edward Tse, and […]
22 hours ago
This photo provided by Budweiser shows a scene from Budweiser's 2023 Super Bowl NFL football ad. Br...
Associated Press

For Super Bowl ads this year, crypto is out, booze is in

NEW YORK (AP) — The hottest ticket in town for advertisers is officially sold out. Fox said Monday that in-game ads for Super Bowl LVII have all been sold. The big game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles takes place on Sunday. The Super Bowl is advertising’s biggest stage, with advertisers jockeying […]
22 hours ago
FILE -- A man walks out of a vaccination bus at a mobile vaccine clinic in Midtown Manhattan, Dec. ...
Associated Press

NYC ending COVID-19 vaccination mandate for city employees

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City, which once had the nation’s strictest workplace vaccination rules for COVID-19, is ending one of its last such mandates, saying it will no longer require the shots for municipal employees including police officers, firefighters and teachers. The vaccine mandate, which led to the firing of hundreds of city […]
22 hours ago
British Chancellor Jeremy Hunt gestures before speaking to the media at Victoria Place Shopping Cen...
Associated Press

Britcoin? UK gets closer to launching a digital currency

LONDON (AP) — Britcoin is moving closer to reality. U.K. authorities on Monday said British businesses and consumers are likely to need a digital version of the pound, formally asking for public comment on the idea of introducing a central bank digital currency. Britain, home to the world’s second-biggest financial center, is trailing former colonies […]
22 hours ago
FILE - A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif., Sept. 24, 201...
Associated Press

Google hopes ‘Bard’ will outsmart ChatGPT, Microsoft in AI

Google is girding for a battle of wits in the field of artificial intelligence with “Bard,” a conversational service apparently aimed at countering the popularity of the ChatGPT tool backed by Microsoft. Bard initially will be available exclusively to a group of “trusted testers” before being widely released later this year, according to a Monday […]
22 hours ago
Lizzo performs a medley at the 65th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, in Los Angeles. (...
Associated Press

Grammys rebound from COVID years, reach 12.4 million viewers

NEW YORK (AP) — An estimated 12.4 million people tuned in to watch stars Harry Styles, Lizzo and Bad Bunny perform at the Grammy Awards, along with a tribute to 50 years of rap history. That’s up from the pandemic-affected broadcasts of the last two years, the Nielsen company said on Monday. Live viewership was […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Semafor news site makes debut, intent on reinventing news