Time magazine celebrates web pioneers wondering what’s next

On Thursday, a week after BuzzFeed Pulitzer Prize-winning news section closed And laying off 15 percent of its staff, Jonah Peretti, the company’s CEO, predicted in a memo to the rest of his staff that the future of the media business lay in “huge cultural moments” and “fun.”

He wrote that things that cultivate division will go out of style. Social media no longer drives traffic to websites. The algorithm that dictates internet searches will favor feel-good entertainment in a “big reversal from the 2000s social media landscape” and its reliance on “content that promotes toxicity,” Axios reported In describing Mr. Peretti’s note.

Mr. Peretti has been wrong before, as evidenced by a breakdown BuzzFeed stock since the company went public in 2021. But his view that the business is headed for a post-revolutionary period of restoration wouldn’t have seemed out of the ordinary to anyone who witnessed two very different media parties in Manhattan this week: Time 100 gal at One Columbus Circle and a book party hosted by digital news expert Ben Smith at a restaurant downtown.

More than 300 well-attended guests descended on Columbus Circle Wednesday night for the party thrown by perhaps the most inherited brand of media, Time magazine. The flock included stars from recent hits (Jennifer Coolidge, Aubrey Plaza, Ali Wong, Natasha Lyonne) as well as some of the Time gravitas, NASA astronomer Ed Reynolds and American Library Association executive director Tracie D. Hall.

He was probably the biggest star of the evening Mark Benioffa Silicon Valley billionaire who, with his wife Lynn, He bought Time for $190 million from Meredith Corporation in 2018. There probably wouldn’t have been any party for the Time 100, and there probably wouldn’t have been a Time, if it hadn’t pounced on ownership of the publication that was the highlight of the weeklies when weeklies were still a thing.

In Mr. Benioff’s Hour, Time has partnered deals with documentaries streaming platforms and ramped up its events business. The Time 100 party that was once an extension of the brand has arguably become its centerpiece. This year’s party was part of a weekly convention, the Time 100 Summit, which included onstage talks with Steven Spielberg; Kim kardashian; Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu; and WNBA star Nneka Ogwumike.

“Isn’t that fun,” said the bearded Mr. Benioff as celebrities streamed to the 16th floor of One Columbus Circle — a two-tower building that was called the Time Warner Center when it opened in 2004 and now goes as a Deutsche Bank center.

Benioff, 58, has made much of his fortune in software, as the leader of Salesforce. He is now part of a topsy-turvy company that, in the days before the soiree, went through a period of volatility marked by the suspension of operations of Paper Magazine, an obscure chronicler of the New York downtown scene; release Tucker Carlson on Fox News, without a lemon In CNN and Jeff Shell at NBC; and the decision by Fox News to pay for it from a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems with $787.5 million.

Mr. Benioff shrugged off a reporter’s question about all of that, saying, “Let’s ignore the other stuff.”

Time magazine published its first list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2004 and quickly took it as an opportunity to generate publicity with an annual gala packed with celebrity guests. (Think: Met Gala, with nerds.) This year’s party was filmed as a special for ABC.

When Mr. Benioff settled in for the evening, Mrs. Kardashian strutted around in a cream John Galliano gown. On the red carpet down the hall stood Mr. Lemon, who had lost his job two days earlier, in part because of his misogyny comments Made it on air. Unemployed but not down, he gave interviews to Access Hollywood, E! and Page Six TV.

Many of Mr. Lemon’s remarks from the anchor’s office were baffling, but there was something smart and modern-day about his decision not to lie down after suffering a stroke.

“People keep asking me if I’m okay,” Mr. Lemon said. “I come from a strong Louisiana background. I’m fine.” He added that he was looking forward to spending the summer at the beach.

Nikki Cox, reporter for the Page Six column for the New York Post, stood to one side, his head tilted. Even this gossip writer seemed baffled by the idea that someone who was in the news for the wrong reasons would just show up on the red carpet as if nothing had happened. “When I saw it,” said Mrs. Cox, “I actually thought there was something wrong with my eyes.”

CNN President Chris Licht, who was largely responsible for the shooting of Mr. Lemon, stood nearby, in the cocktail area, with Mrs. Coolidge and actress Tiffany Haddish. The guests quickly moved to their tables inside a tiered banquet hall. The waiters served red wine and a salad that looked like it had been prepared by a landscape architect.

Cameras panned as Mrs. Coolidge — in the role of MC — made a self-deprecating joke about how strange it would be to be honored alongside climate scientists who “calculate exactly how long it will take us to die.” She was referring to Brittney Schmidt and Peter Davis, who have studied the damage to Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica.

Once again 100 honoree, Doja Cat, a singer and rapper who landed a record deal after being brought to prominence through a viral TikTok video, performed her hits “Woman” and “Say So.” Since the event was as much a television production as it was a party, she was asked to redo the second song due to a technical glitch.

The toasts were made for actress Angela Bassett and for Mrs. Hall, the first black woman president of the American Library Association. Mr. Spielberg spoke from the stage about the importance of journalism. “We need news as much as we need food, water and air,” he said, before praising the time for retaining his sense of mission while adjusting to a changing culture.

With the billionaire’s backing, Time can wait out a difficult period in the field of journalism, according to journalist Kara Swisher. “She will stand as long as he wants,” she said at the party. The CEOs of publicly traded media companies — like Mr. Peretti at BuzzFeed — don’t have such a luxury.

The ups and downs (especially the downs) were a major topic of conversation at Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy, the site of the Thursday night book party for Mr. Smith, who spent eight years as editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News before leaving for a two-year stint as an information columnist at The New York Times. .

The restaurant was packed. The waiters served meatballs and other appetizers. The former colleagues of Mr. Smith were piled up at the tavern. All attendees seemed to have been personally affected by the vagaries of the digital news economy.

said Eileen Cushing, an editor who worked at Buzzfeed from 2015 to 2018 and now publishes her trade in The Atlantic, a newspaper whose majority owner is the Emerson Collective, an organization founded by billionaire Lauren Powell Jobs. “Now it sounds naive,” Mrs. Cushing continued, “but I’m glad we did.”

Mr. Smith’s book, “Traffic,” provides an insider’s account of the 2010s race between BuzzFeed and Gawker Media while proving that the Internet ethos that emerged in the early years of digital media shaped much of contemporary culture, for better and for worse. worst.

Mr. Smith, 46, said he completed “Traffic” last summer, when BuzzFeed News was on life support. In the final chapter, he attributes his downfall to how difficult it was to attract and maintain a strong audience, particularly when the same social media sites that brought readers to BuzzFeed were severely reducing ad revenue.

Not lost on Mr. Smith’s restaurant gathering, which is kind of an upcoming gig for him as an author, it came a week after Mr. Peretti pulled the plug on BuzzFeed News.

“It’s strange timing,” said Smith.

Smith’s book party took place about a week after BuzzFeed News, where he had been editor-in-chief for eight years, closed down.credit…Joss Aronson for The New York Times

Jessica Quinn, formerly editor-in-chief of Gawker and one of its subsidiaries, Jezebel, stood next to the bar. “I don’t know what the new paradigm is,” she said when asked to rate the media business. “Tik Tok?” she was kidding. somewhat.

I walked in Arianna Huffington, who started Huffington Post in 2005. Shortly after its inception, one of its co-founders, Mr. Peretti, began working in his spare time on an experiment in viral media that became BuzzFeed. Once the site gained traction with readers, it created panic in the established media.

In 2011, Mr. Smith, then a reporter at Politico, came in as founding editor of BuzzFeed’s newly created news division. He stayed on until 2020, when he joined The Times. he is back to the startup world last year semaphorea digital news website he co-founded with media director Justin Smith.

BuzzFeed News Won a Pulitzer Prize In international reports after Mr. Smith left the site. But it was facing harsh headwinds, and his successor as editor-in-chief, Mark ChoffsHe stepped down last year, as did two other senior editors. before offering to the public, BuzzFeed has acquired HuffPost (as the site has been renamed) from Verizon Media. Since then, Huffington said at the book party, BuzzFeed News has become less of a journalistic powerhouse. And now he’s gone.

Although he’s had his opinion of the media industry in his columns in The Times and written a book on the recent history of digital news, Mr. Smith seemed far from cocky Thursday night when asked to predict the next big trend in his chosen field.

He said, “I’m just a reporter.” “I don’t see the future.”

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