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Summary:

eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture — on which he plans to spend as much as $250 million — is now known as First Look Media, and has an unusual two-pronged corporate structure that is both for-profit and non-profit

Not surprisingly — since it involves a billionaire spending $250 million on a brand new media venture with NSA leak architect Glenn Greenwald at the helm — there has been intense speculation about every aspect of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s new entity since the news broke in October. On Thursday, the world got a small peek behind the curtain at some details about the venture.

The new entity is being called First Look Media, and it has received its first round of funding from Omidyar to the tune of $50 million, and is setting up offices in New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco. The news came via a press release from Omidyar Group and a blog post from advisor Jay Rosen.

Two arms: One for profit and one non-profit

The new venture has an interesting structure, in that First Look Media will consist of two legal entities: one is a for-profit company whose goal will be to “develop new media technology,” and the other is a non-profit corporation that will pursue independent journalism. As Rosen describes it:

“The new company will consist of several legal entities. One is a technology company, a business run for profit, that will develop new media tools for First Look properties and other markets. Another is a 501(c)(3), a non-profit under U.S. law. Its mission will be to publish and support independent, public interest journalism.

The 501(c)(3) will house the journalism operation, which hasn’t given a name yet to its initial publication. It will have editorial independence. Profits earned by the technology company will be used to support the mission: independent public interest journalism.”

In some ways, this sounds a little like the corporate structure that supports The Guardian newspaper in Britain (please see disclosure below): parent company Guardian Media Group is a for-profit entity controlled by the Scott Trust, and it owns other assets such as the Auto Trader group of companies, whose profits help subsidize the Guardian‘s losses.

The first of several media offerings

Rosen also mentions Atavist, a publishing company that produces narrative non-fiction or long-form journalism, and is supported in part by the platform it created for that purpose, which is called Creativist.

“Another way to say it is: public service, mission-driven journalism, including investigative work, has always been subsidized by something: advertising, other kinds of news, donors to a non-profit (as with ProPublica) or a related and profitable business like the Bloomberg terminals that subsidize Bloomberg News. First Look Media is adding to the picture another possible source of support: profits from a company specifically focused on technology for producing, distributing and consuming news, views and information.”

Interestingly enough, both Omidyar’s statement and Rosen’s post refer to the media entity that Greenwald will presumably be working for as First Look Media’s “initial digital publication,” implying that there will be others.

First Look has also been the subject of some controversy over allegations that Greenwald essentially sold the NSA leaks he received from Edward Snowden to Omidyar as part of the creation of the new-media venture. Greenwald has responded to those allegations in a lengthy post arguing that what he has done is no different from what other media entities do with similar stories.

Disclosure: Guardian News & Media is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom. Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user George Kelly

  1. “Greenwald has responded to those allegations in a lengthy post arguing that what he has done is no different from what other media entities do with similar stories.”

    Translation; “A mans gotta eat”

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