Imagine! Asking for $10 Million-Plus to Start a Dweebsite!

How Ezra Klein learned he isn’t a star after all.

Ezra Klein, an analyst, columnist and television commentator who runs The Washington Post’s Wonkblog, is making plans to leave the newspaper after failing to win support for a new website he wanted to create within the company, according to four people with knowledge of the negotiations. —Ravi Somaiya, The New York Times

Insiders reported Klein asked The Washington Post’s new owner—Amazon’s Jeff Bezos—and publisher Katharine Weymouth for an investment “in eight figures.” (That’s $10 million or more!) They
turned him down.

Golly gee. Why would Jeff and Katherine do that?

Quite simply, they looked at Klein’s track record.

A 2-Letter Word in the Times Lede Says It All
Ezra Klein, an analyst, columnist and television commentator …

Were Ezra Klein a nationally recognized star journalist—like Bob Woodward, Andrew Ross Sorkin or Tom Friedman—Ravi Somaiya’s lede might have been:

Ezra Klein, the analyst, columnist and television commentator …

Alas, Ezra Klein is a minor media figure—a columnist and blogger for a sick newspaper (The Washington Post) and occasional guest-host on teensy-weensy MSNBC (average prime time viewership 640,000).

When Klein revamped his blog in 2011, he got coverage in New York Magazine. The title of Joe Coscarelli’s story: Ezra Klein’s New Wonkblog Is Standing Proud for ‘Boring Nerds Who Like Charts’

Ouch.

Now Ezra Klein wants $10 million-plus to create a brand new website “dedicated to explanatory journalism on a wide range of topics beyond political policy.”

In other words an audience of policy wonks, political junkies and dweebs.

My opinion:

  • These are not folks who would likely pay cash money for a subscription. Their mantra: All information should be free.
  • Nor are they juicy free-spending consumers that advertisers are salivating to reach.
  • Explanatory journalism on a wide range of topics beyond political policy is—to be charitable—an anemic Unique Selling Proposition (USP) with nothing unique about it.

What’s more, in terms of competition on the Web, Ezra Klein’s current Wonkblog sucks hind tit.

Website Unique Visitors Per Month

Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog 4.0 MM
Salon 5.7 MM
Politico 6.7 MM
Drudge Report 14.4 MM
Daily Beast 15.0 MM
Slate 17.0 MM
Washingtonpost.com 18.8 MM
Gawker 22.0 MM
E! Online 24.0 MM
Huffington Post 72.0 MM
Buzzfeed 85.0 MM

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

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Comments
  • Ricardo Vidallon

    Ezra who?

  • wash98052

    Tony the pitiful copywriter had it right. Mr. Klein is a time traveler, or wants to be. Maybe he believes Jeff Bezos– after HIS own many initial months in the RED–can empathize as the model survivor of that storied era. Or maybe Ezra just hopes Jeff can recognize a USP in there somewhere that Ezra is unable to enunciate.

  • tony the pitiful copywriter

    I see what Ezra’s doing. His $10 mil website is like Colonial Williamsburg. Instead of re-enacting ye olde colonial America, Ezra wants to re-enact the 1990’s web bubble when investors were throwing money at sketchy internet projects like drunk sailors on leave. Just sayin’.

  • David Slavin

    Newt Gingrich notwithstanding, if one pulls the $10MM claim from the story I fail to see where this falls apart. I thought Arianna started HuffPo much the same way (as opposed to Drudge et al mainlining money from the Koch Industries affiliates to stay afloat) and your chart shows that that venture appears to be doing quite well. Not to mention that Politico followed a similar spin-off path from the Post and it seems to be doing quite well, too. Your whole screed seems to be hinged on the capital request and your own animus. Is this really on target for TM or am I missing something?

  • Stew

    Still laughing from reading this. Poor Ezra, a legend in his own mind. He’s had enough smoke blown up his butt by the talking heads on MSNBC he actually started believing it was true. Maybe Chris Matthews has a position for him?

  • Bart Foreman

    Another Denny classic. However, Denny, you miss some key points:
    1. The cost of living in DC is high and $10MM really does not go very far or very long.
    2. You’re in DC where the norm is to spend other people’s money in large numbers.
    3. If this venture fails, and it will, Ezra needs some working capital to live on until he finds another non-essential niche market to bilk someone else for. Like I said $10MM does not go very far in DC.

  • Max

    He should have asked MSNBC. They understand dweebs and low ratings.