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Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media Shuts Down Topic Magazine, Ends Funding for The Nib Political Cartooning Site

In a pair of cost-cutting moves, Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media is shuttering the Topic Magazine digital publication dedicated to nonfiction storytelling and is dropping its funding for political cartoon site The Nib.

Topic Magazine, launched two years ago, is ceasing publication as First Look plans to put more resources toward Topic.com’s original video content production. The magazine staff will be let go at the end of July, First Look Media CEO Michael Bloom wrote in a memo to employees Friday.

The magazine’s “small, hard-working team has produced 24 powerful issues exploring love, anger, fear, music, rites of passage, identity and so much more,” Bloom wrote. “[W]e learned a lot — about the audience, what resonated, and how to best move forward.” The magazine has been led by SVP of editorial Anna Holmes, who previously founded Gawker’s Jezebel.

First Look Media also is “parting ways” with The Nib, Bloom said in the memo, without explaining why. The cutbacks by FLM were first reported by Study Hall, a Patreon-supported media newsletter.

FLM announced its backing of The Nib in 2016 and relaunched the site that July, timed with the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Matt Bors, editor of The Nib, said in a message to readers Friday that he will continue the site independently. He said the fourth issue of the print magazine will ship in early July. The Nib’s fifth issue is in the works and Bors will be publishing it independently.

“Our only funds going forward will be those our members have pledged each month to support us,” he wrote. The publication’s signup page for members is at membership.thenib.com.

New York-based First Look Media launched Topic.com in June 2017 as a home for original video, podcasts, photography, illustration and long-form journalism.

As it ends Topic Magazine, another casualty of the monetization challenges faced by digital-media outfits, FLM has upped the investment in Topic’s video business. In May, the company announced the hire of 20-year HBO veteran Maria Zuckerman as EVP of Topic Studios to lead overall strategy. In addition, First Look recently hired Gena Konstantinakos, formerly a producer at Viceland, as VP of development and video programming for Topic’s consumer platform.

Topic’s film and video projects have included documentary shorts and series including “The Loving Generation”; “Black 14”; “Edith+Eddie”; “She’s the Ticket”; and “aka Wyatt Cenac.” Current and upcoming projects include those from filmmakers Darius Clark Monroe, Nathan Silver, Jia Li, Yvonne Michelle Shirley and Charlie Tyrell. Last fall Topic Studios also announced a first-look deal with Mermade, the digital-focused division of Sharon Horgan and Clelia Mountford’s Merman production company.

Omidyar, the billionaire founder of eBay, founded First Look Media in 2013 and the company’s first feature film, “Spotlight,” won the 2016 Academy Award for best picture. According to the company, the entertainment business “supports the work of our nonprofit side,” which includes investigative journalism site The Intercept; documentary unit Field of Vision; and the Press Freedom Defense Fund.

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