Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Media Disruption: PandoDaily Changing To 'Pando' With NSFW Merger

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 25, 2013

Tech news site PandoDaily is merging with NSFW, a magazine based in Las Vegas, in a bid to "double down on investigative reporting."

The financially troubled NSFW was founded by Paul Carr, a former columnist for The Guardian. Sarah Lacy, founder of PandoDaily, wrote: "We aren't just getting Paul. I'm equally thrilled to announce that we're also adding Mark Ames, Brad Jonas, Yasha Levine, and David Sirota as full-time staffers." 

Foremski's Take: It's tough making money in online media and it gets tougher when you take on even higher costs as in the five full-time staff plus additional part-timers from NSFW. That's a lot of extra payroll and management time. 

Carr will head a new investigative reporting team, whose goal is to produce one or two "'Holy Shit!' stories per week."

It will certainly be a challenge to produce investigative reports that take only a couple of days to research.

One possible example of the type of investigative reports the former NSFW team might produce, is their recent long report about Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar and his philanthropic ventures. Omidyar is described as,

"the fabled "civic-minded billionaire"--you'll find him two doors down from the tooth fairy." ..." a free-market zealot with an almost mystical faith in the power of "markets" to transform the world, end poverty, and improve lives."

There's no investigative reporting at all that I could see, it's mostly Googling of what others have written in their investigations, combined with creative name-calling. Nothing wrong with that but it's not investigate reporting.

Higher costs of business...

It's not clear to me how this editorial expansion and editorial strategy will improve the fortunes of PandoDaily, which is not yet profitable after two years and $3m raised from prominent VCs such as Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel.

What's the business model? There's not much money in Silicon Valley investigative reports -- there's a limited appeal. To be in the running with the other tech sites, Lacy must build traffic monthly pageviews in the tens of millions, and host large conferences. To drive traffic you have to triple up on content and a lot of it has to pander to the content-lite, content-trite, and short content trend (despite people claiming to love long articles). BusinessInsider is the media business model to follow for these times. 

Carr can certainly attract pageviews but it's not because of his investigative journalism but for his potty mouth in very public online arguments, and in his writing:

2013 11 25 14 33 29

Less pandering ... more "Pando"

PandoDaily has been accused of pandering to Silicon Valley's insider culture because of its chummy relationship with key figures. Carr is clearly being brought in to change that perception of pandering, but the name change to "Pando" doesn't go far enough, it sounds too similar to the vice. This would be a perfect time to refresh the brand with a new name. 

What can we expect from Pando? Dominic Rushe at The Guardian, reports:

Carr said he expects Pando to start making more waves, but for different reasons. Pando's investigative team would target all the most powerful people in the Valley and challenge them "when they need challenging," he said. Some of Pando's investors "were going to shit himself" when they heard NSFW's team was joining Pando, he added.

I wish them luck -- media is a tough business and Pando has chosen a tough business strategy.

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