Ozy Media went from being a relatively unknown content producer to being a major player in the media industry within six days. Unrecognizable to most, the eight-year-old media startup was a mystery. It was anonymous despite having a list of well-known journalists and high-profile guests on CEO Carlos Watsons' show. There were also NYC subway riders who were sometimes bombarded with ads for Ozyfest.
Ozy Media admitted that its COO and cofounder pretended to have been a YouTube executive during a conference call.
You might not know that the first New York Times Report revealed two shocking facts about Ozy Media. First, Samir Rao, co-founder and chief operating officer of Ozy Medias, called Goldman Sachs bankers to discuss a possible $40 million investment. He impersonated an executive from YouTube and extolled the virtues Ozy Medias video channel. The Ozy Media leadership allowed Rao to continue in his executive role after the deceit was exposed.
Carlos Watson, who tweeted the following day that it was a hit-job and pointed out reasons why Ben Smith is too conflicted for him to write about the company. Smith still holds a share in Buzzfeed. Watson stated that Smith attempted to negotiate the acquisition of Ozy Media in late 2019.
The NYTimes' ridiculous hitjob left me devastated. We are resilient and unaffected. It is not for weak people to build something new, worthy and fresh. Here's what I sent to our team. pic.twitter.com/qcH4m9zqM2 Carlos Watson (@carloswatson) September 27, 2021
Over the next few weeks, more stories from Ozy Media and Watson began to unravel.
This includes any claims about the site's reach or traffic. A site that claims to have 25,000,000 newsletter subscribers should be better known. It also claims to have reported on public figures such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez before other outlets. These claims were repeated in reports like this one on Axios. Joshua Benton, Nieman Lab reporter, investigated and discovered that even though Ozy mentioned the cases, it covered them months or years later than mainstream media had.
Watson stated to reporters on CNBC, that Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne invested in the site after a dispute about the festival's name. CNBC reported this week that Sharon Osbourne stated to CNBC that they had never been shareholders. Watson was called the greatest shyster I've ever seen in my entire life.
A former producer of the Carlos Watson show disclosed that the show's big-name guests were told it would air on A&E. The show was also part of the YouTube Original package. A spokesperson for the network said that A&E had rejected the show before it was taped. Ozy Media ran a magazine-style advertisement in the New York Times. It featured a tagline crediting Dateline and a statement calling Watson the best interviewer on television. The ad also included a quote from Ozy COO Samir Ro.
Katty Kay, a former BBC journalist, resigned publicly over the past few days. Advertisers ran for the hills and Marc Lasry, the chairman of the NBA World Champion Milwaukee Bucks, resigned only three weeks after he was appointed. Watson resigned today from the board at National Public Radio. This afternoon, news broke that Ozy was closing down completely.