It’s not hard to come up with short elevator pitches for many of today’s media startups. Vox is an explainer site that will act as a kind of Wikipedia for news. FiveThirtyEight focuses primarily on numbers and data journalism. The Upshot is a mixture of data viz and explainer journalism. But it’s hard to determine what First Look Media wants to be and how it’ll differentiate itself in the marketplace. Its publishing platform and looks is pretty basic, and though it has some big names behind it (Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi) and a billionaire technologist funding it (Pierre Omidyar), there’s this sense, at least from the outside, that it’s a publication still in search editorial focus:
As it turns out, First Look is grappling with the same fundamental problems facing other news startups across the spectrum—how to make money and how to be distinctive—and, so far, hasn’t had much progress in finding a solution to either.
When First Look was announced in January with a sleek animated video, the organization described an expansive operation that would include an omnibus flagship publication that would cover everything from politics to sports to culture, along with a flotilla of magazines led by prominent journalists covering specific subjects. The video promised an extensive support system not unlike those provided by mainstream media in its heyday, along with a separate technology company that would explore ways to turn journalism “innovation into commercial opportunities.”