The Sunday soap opera starring Ozy Media came up with dramatic ending on Friday when the media announced it was shutting down. Ozy’s finale took place in just five days and was fueled by his own lies and false representation. Still, one question remains: Why did it take so long for company scams to hit the front page?
Ozy’s fall began with a wild story in New York Times Sept. 26 focused on a weird phone call last February with Goldman Sachs. At the time, the bank was talking to a media company about a potential $ 40 million investment, impressed by its apparent large audience for its website and other products. Most importantly, the point of sale reported, the deal depended on Ozy’s “great relationship” with YouTube.
Enter a strange phone call. Goldman wanted to talk to YouTube about Ozy’s performance on the platform, so Ozy arranged a conference call between the three parties, including Alex Piper, the head of the program who wasn’t scripted for the YouTube Originals team. Or Ozy claimed to be online.
During the conversation, Piper praised Ozy’s success on YouTube and said Carlos Watson, a media company co-founder and Director, it was great. However, Goldman officials told the Times that Piper’s voice sounded as if it had been digitally altered. Sensing that something was going on, the bank contacted Piper through his assistant on YouTube, only to find out that the man had no idea what they were talking about. Someone was falsely posing on it between Goldman Sachs and Ozy.
It was later revealed that the impersonator was Samir Rao, Ozy’s co-founder and chief operating officer. After the template was completed, Watson told Goldman and the Times it was Rao’s behavior was caused by a mental health crisis, adding that the chief operating officer subsequently took time off and has now returned to Ozy.
In addition to Ra’s scam, the Times also revealed that Ozy’s alleged web traffic did not add up. In 2019, the company said it has 50 million unique monthly users. Still Comscore, a leading media analytics company, found that Ozy reached only about 2.5 million people at some point in 2018. At the same time, it reached approximately 230,000 and 479,000 people, respectively, in July and July this year. Watson told the Times that the company does not use standard internet traffic metrics — which in turn raises questions about how a medium with unique metrics could be considered successful and attract so much investment. (Ozy raised more than $ 83 million by 2020.)
It also boasted that it has more than 20 million newsletter subscribers, which is a strange number compared to other successful newsletter companies.
However, these were not just Ozy’s lies. The company set up billboards in Los Angeles stating this Carlos Watson show was Amazon Prime ‘s first talk show, which actually only put the show on the platform and was not affiliated with the company. Amazon complained, and Ozy said he would remove the billboards. Ozy also said Watson’s show is “the fastest growing talk show in YouTube history.” Watson did not offer the Times any evidence to substantiate that claim, saying only that the show had more views than any other show the company identified had launched on YouTube. (Aside: That sounds a lot like “because I said so.”)
Initially, Ozy’s leadership and his supporters tried to downplay the significance of the report, they seem to stand by the company. That quickly changed as more details came to light about the gimmicks going on in Ozy, including the fact that Watson lied when he said that Carlos Watson show would be distributes A&E.
On Tuesday, Ozy’s board said it had hired an outside law firm to investigate the company’s business activities and the management team. On Thursday, the chairman of the board Marc Lasry resigned, saying he believes, “Ozy requires experience in areas like crisis management and investigations, where I have no special expertise.”
Also this week, Emerson Collective, a Laurene Powell Jobs company dedicated to investing and advocacy, said that while she was one of Ozy’s first supporters, the company did not participate in the company’s latest investment round and has not been on its board since 2019.
On Friday, Ozy said it would close. The decision leaves 75 full-time employees without a job and turns the so-called media success. Gizmodo contacted Ozy and Modern Media, Ozy’s parent company, on Friday, but received no response. Ozy’s board of directors gave Axios following statement:
“At Ozy, we are blessed with an exceptional team of dedicated staff. Many of them are world-class journalists and experienced professionals to whom we owe immense gratitude and who are wonderful colleagues. Therefore, with the greatest heart, we must announce today that we are closing Ozy’s door. ”
And that happens when your lies catch up with you. Given the state of the media, which is still bleeding at work, Ozy’s story is sad. What media company wouldn’t like to have Ozy’s investment and support? It also sends the wrong message, one that says you will only succeed if you lie.
It is common in our society to hear the phrase “fake until you succeed”, which is often given as advice. Ozy’s fall reminder is that pretending to be something you are not can have catastrophic consequences and affect the existence of innocent people. Unfortunately, until our society learns to stop selling smoke and the illusion of success, there will be many more stories like Ozy’s, which is a shame.
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