×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

New news network to launch online

Eric Schmidt, Cory Booker among Waywire backers

A new news network is launching online this summer with the backing of some well-known investors including Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, N.J.

The venture is being called #Waywire, and the hashtag appears in the name as a nod to its emphasis on social media and reliance on digital platforms, including as a branded app. Waywire will also subsist mostly on user-generated content from viewers in addition to its own original programming.

Waywire is expected to launch in beta mode later this summer but without advertising, which won’t kick in until the venture amasses a significant audience. Only a handful of shortform video programs will be available at launch, including a thrice-daily newscast no longer than five minutes.

The goal is to give a millennial audience raised on technology an alternative to the reigning, older-skewing news establishment, one that deals with substantive issues devoid of partisanship or tabloid interests.

Waywire will also avoid a political leaning of any kind and will instead be a forum for users of many different viewpoints. “We saw that, in places where technology and social media led to revolutions, they understand that most media is owned by handful of individual corporations,” said Nathan Richardson, Waywire co-founder along with Sarah Ross. “We want to be a platform for users to contribute whether left, right or center.”

The venture’s execs declined to specify how many people will be staffed out of Waywire’s newsroom in Manhattan, which is currently a temporary space with fewer than 10 employees. Waywire has collected only $1.75 million in financing, a modest sum for a media venture at any scale, but will continue to seek funding.

The seed capital round was led by First Round Capital and Schmidt through one of his venture capital firms, Innovation Endeavors. The venture is not associated with Google. Also aboard is Troy Carter, best known for being Lady Gaga’s business manager, and John Ham, co-founder of live-streaming service Ustream. Oprah Winfrey and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner have also been reported as investors.

Waywire is the brainchild of Booker, an up-and-coming politician who has achieved a national profile in part because of his innovative usage of social media platforms like Twitter, where he has over 1 million followers. Booker developed the idea with Sarah Ross and Richardson, veteran digital media execs who first met while at Yahoo and are aboard as co-founders.

Booker will also be an on-air contributor to the network to “discuss America’s most significant challenges” but will not have a say in Waywire’s programming or have a day-to-day management role.

But in the interest of avoiding the appearance of impropriety and given Booker isn’t giving up his day job for Waywire, his ownership stake will be maintained in a trust overseen by former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean — a nod to bipartisanship given his conservative credentials.

“Cory is a full-time mayor of a city that has great needs,” Richardson said. “We want to make sure he stays focused on his job, which is running Newark 24/7.”

But that trust is active only for as long as Booker is in office, raising the possibility that he is using Waywire in part to advance his political interests. Booker has been mentioned as a future presidential possibility, and he’d be far from the first politician to leverage media to keep his profile up. He wouldn’t even be the first mayor with a media empire to call his own, given the eponymous organization founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Richardson batted down the suggestion that Waywire was a politically motivated measure for Booker.

“Cory has always been embracing disruptive ways to change the world,” Richardson said. “While some politicians choose to write a book, he understands this generation is much more interested in a two-way dialogue that is more free-flowing through the social Web.”

Booker knows all too well the excesses of the news media. In an appearance last month on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” a critical remark he made about President Obama’s campaign ignited enough of a firestorm that he was forced to fire his communications director. Waywire is his way of creating an antidote to the mainstream media.

If the Waywire concept invokes a feeling of deja vu, it may be because bears some similarity to Current TV, a cable channel co-founded by former vice president Al Gore in 2005. Like Waywire, Current sought to make socially conscious programming palatable to younger viewers by being digitally oriented and enabling the submission of user-generated content on its website.

But Current ended up dumping that format after years of struggling. The network seemed to finally achieve some momentum over the past year by transforming into a liberal-leaning similar to MSNBC but was dealt a harsh blow when Keith Olbermann left amid circumstances currently being hashed out in a pair of lawsuits.

Waywire is hoping to ride the wave of programming enterprises looking to make an end run around traditional TV distribution by being available as an app on the growing number of Internet-connected TVs. Another venture led by billionaire Carlos Slim, Ora.tv, is taking a similar tack and made former CNN newsman Larry King its first on-air hire.

Another well-known digital brand coming to this space this summer is the Huffington Post, which is launching a more ambitious online network next month, HuffPost Live, that plans to program 12 hours per day.

At this stage Waywire isn’t expected to pursue brand-name news personalities, though Richardson said hires will be made that are recognizable figures in the social-media world that would appeal to millenials.

While Waywire is not seeking carriage as a cable news channel a la CNN, it will license some of its programming from yet-to-be-revealed premium partners likely drawn from TV and online brands.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Doug Scott - Twitch

    Twitch Recruits Zynga's Doug Scott as Chief Marketing Officer

    Doug Scott is leaving as game company Zynga’s marketing boss to become Twitch’s CMO. Scott assumes the CMO role at Twitch after previous chief marketing officer Kate Jhaveri exited this summer to become the NBA’s top marketing exec. News of Scott’s hire comes less than a month after Twitch launched a redesigned logo and site, [...]

  • Carter Hansen - VidCon

    VidCon Hires Ex-AwesomenessTV Exec Carter Hansen to Head Conference Programming

    VidCon hired Carter Hansen, a founding executive at AwesomenessTV, as VP of programming to oversee conference programming and content for the internet-video events producer. In the newly created role, Hansen reports to VidCon GM Jim Louderback and will be based in Viacom’s Hollywood office. As part of overseeing programming worldwide for VidCon’s community, creator and [...]

  • The Boys Amazon Prime

    Nielsen Adds Amazon Prime Video to SVOD Measurement, With Limitations

    After two years of measuring Netflix viewing, Nielsen has now added Amazon Prime Video to the mix of subscription-streaming services it tracks — and with the same set of limitations. Nielsen’s SVOD Content Ratings originally launched in October 2017 with Netflix. According to the research firm, the addition of Amazon Prime Video measurement will let [...]

  • Gavel Court Placeholder

    Netflix Movie Scammer Admits to Defrauding Investors Out of $14 Million

    A California man has admitted to defrauding investment groups — nabbing $14 million — by falsely claiming the money would be used to produce a feature film for Netflix. On Oct. 18, Adam Joiner, 41, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in U.S. District Court, according to federal authorities. [...]

  • netflix debt

    Netflix to Raise Another $2 Billion Through Debt to Fund Massive Content Spending

    Netflix, burning boatloads of cash with a projected $15 billion content budget for 2019, is adding to its debt load once again. On Monday (Oct. 21), Netflix announced plans to offer approximately $2.0 billion aggregate principal amount of junk bonds, in both U.S dollar and euro denominations. As of Sept. 30, Netflix reported $12.43 billion [...]

  • Bristol, CT - July 26, 2018

    Mina Kimes Helps ESPN Kick Off 'Daily' Podcast

    Mina Kimes is preparing to take ESPN into a new frontier. The sports-media giant has launched a “SportsCenter” for Snapchat and tested baseball telecasts for kids. Now it’s hoping to set up shop in another media venue. Starting tomorrow, the Disney-backed company launches “ESPN Daily,” a weekday morning podcast that aims to tap its vast [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content