From the Beast’s media desk
Welcome to this week’s edition of Confider, the media newsletter that pulls back the curtain to reveal what’s really going on inside the world’s most powerful navel-gazing industry. Subscribe here and send your questions, tips, and complaints here.
EXCLUSIVE — NATE’S SILVER BULLET: Famed statistics guru and writer Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight is on the “chopping block,” Confider has learned, as ABC News looks to cut costs. A decision on the future of the famed politics, economics, and sports analysis website is set to be made by the summer when Silver’s contract is up, multiple people with knowledge of the situation told us. The oft-combative Silver, who has come under renewed scrutiny for his site’s polling selections, now faces an uncertain future as news division boss Kim Godwin reviews the publication, which has never turned a profit. FiveThirtyEight has not backfilled key positions, including that of managing editor (Micah Cohen exited last year for data site Stacker), politics editor (Sarah E. Frostenson defected to The Washington Post), and sports editor (Sara Ziegler was poached by The New York Times). Insiders lamented to Confider that ABC’s lack of enthusiasm in building a subscription business around FiveThirtyEight has been a “missed opportunity” that could have turned the site into a moneymaker for Disney. But instead, ABC may look to offload the publication. This wouldn’t be the first time a FiveThirtyEight acquisition has been discussed: In 2017, Silver held talks with both The Atlantic and The Athletic about a sale, two people familiar with the situation told us. Questions over FiveThirtyEight’s future come as Silver faces public criticism for his reliance on polls that inaccurately predicted a “red wave” in the midterm elections. “There’s no question in my mind that FiveThirtyEight was used by partisan sources to create a false impression of the election and that Nate was aware this was happening and by not addressing it he ended up contributing to misleading the American people about what was happening in the election,“ Democratic strategist and former ABC News producer Simon Rosenberg told Confider. “This is an existential threat to FiveThirtyEight. If he refuses to make significant reforms and changes the political elite should move on to other sources to get information about polling.” Silver did not respond to a request for comment, but an ABC News spokesperson texted Confider: “There are no imminent decisions about our relationship with 538.”
EXCLUSIVE — CONDÉ CUTS: Condé Nast has ditched an entire floor of its shiny digs at 1 World Trade Center as part of cost saving measures, Confider has learned. David Remnick and his New Yorker crew have lost more real estate in the building now that Condé’s consumer marketing department will move from the now-abandoned 27th floor onto the 23rd floor normally occupied by the magazine. As Confider previously reported, Wired and Ars Technica had already moved onto the New Yorker’s floor, raising concerns about Remnick’s ability to protect his fiefdom—particularly as the magazine used to dominate a full two floors of 1WTC. Indeed, the latest shuffle has irked some New Yorker staffers, who complained to Confider about the increasingly limited space for writers and reporters to make private calls. Meantime we have learned Condé Nast’s famed cafeteria, which had attempted to lure staffers back into the office with free supplies of canned water, is now closed for lunch on Fridays. Looks like Anna Wintour will have to pack a meal! A rep for Condé declined to comment.
HOW TO SIMP FOR A CEO: Media and tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Vox Media laid off thousands on Friday. As reports emerged of chaos and fear taking hold within those companies, some of the media’s biggest executive suck-ups made it a mission to cape for the bigwigs. “Media leaders & CEOs, if you want to know how to communicate layoffs effectively, [Vox CEO] Jim Bankoff is good example,” tweeted Axios media reporter Sara Fischer at the very same moment Vox staffers waited to find out if they got pink slips. “He has always been transparent w staff & public about the # of roles impacted, which depts, & why. Vox never does drip, drip, drip cuts. Employees always told first.” Congrats to Jim, we guess! (Fischer was roundly mocked and even turned off replies to that tweet.) Elsewhere, Inc. magazine found the real story in Microsoft’s massive slashes: “With 3 Words, Microsoft’s CEO Showed That You Can Lay Off 10,000 People With Empathy.” Those three apparently magical words were “thoughtful and transparent.” We imagine now-ex Microsoft employees everywhere are lining up to thank CEO Satya Nadella for his empathy.
WE HEAR WHISPERS: Just months after the Washington Examiner poached Fox News senior political reporter Marisa Schultz to be news director, managing editor Chris Irvine pulled the breaking-news team from her in favor of deputy managing editor Liam Quinn, another Fox News alum and friend of Irvine’s.
IN PLAIN SIGHT: G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller in Chicago to testify at the unlawful termination trial of Mike McAvoy, former President of The Onion… Ben Smith sharing a room with his Semafor co-founder Justin Smith (no relation) at Davos as it was revealed the fledgling news outlet needs to gin up $10 million to cover the amount their beleaguered crypto sugar daddy Sam Bankman-Fried had invested.
MORE FROM THE BEAST MEDIA DESK
—M&M’s announced Monday that it will take a break from its “spokescandies,” a clear reaction to Fox News and Tucker Carlson complaining that the reworked animated chocolate candies are either too “woke” or no longer fuckable enough for his tastes. Instead, the company will pivot to Maya Rudolph as a spokesperson, starting with a Super Bowl ad next month. More here.
—Fox News meteorologist Adam Klotz got beat up by "seven or eight teens" on New York City’s 1 train early Sunday morning, leaving him bruised and battered. In a self-deprecating video, Klotz said he was attacked after confronting the teens as they harassed another train rider. NYPD confirmed three teens were detained and released after juvenile reports were filed. More here.
—Last week kicked off the right-wing media feud we absolutely never asked for—and it’s definitely not going away any time soon. Stephen Crowder, a clownish right-wing YouTube star, called a $50 million offer from Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire “slavery” and an increasingly ugly war of words ensued. Lord help us, even Candace Owens got involved on Monday. Let them all fight, we say! Read more here and here.
—Confider’s newest correspondent ChatGPT reports: “CNET, a technology news website, has temporarily halted the use of AI-generated news stories following controversy over the lack of transparency in disclosing the use of AI. The website had been using AI to write news stories but did not clearly indicate that the content was not written by human journalists. As an AI, I would like to apologize for any confusion caused by the lack of transparency and assure you that I am aware of the importance of proper disclosure.” Great work, Chatty! Read more here.
—Firebrand venture capitalist Marc Andreessen may have shifted over the years from aspirational media investor to anti-”woke” media antagonist, but his ambition for power within the industry has not waned. Now he apparently wants to buy The Washington Post should Jeff Bezos sell. The Information has more here.
—The New York Times has an in-depth look at the final days of Nikki Finke, “Hollywood’s most reviled reporter” who made enemies at every turn but also struck fear in the heart of her subjects. Of particular note: a heartbreaking story of her death-bed reunion with her nemesis Jay Penske, whom she once trashed as “little Lord Fauntleroy.” Read it here.
***WHAT ARE WE OUTRAGED ABOUT NOW?***
This space is normally reserved for the latest dumb culture war battles being waged by the right-wing outrage-industrial complex. This week, however, in honor of Tucker Carlson apparently winning his war against unsexy cartoon candies, we’d like to focus on the many ways he’s recently descended into self-parody. Having long surpassed the “Marilyn Manson Now Going Door-To-Door Trying To Shock People” phase of his career, the far-right host decided Friday night to be as cartoonishly ridiculous as possible. Spending much of the show speaking in a falsetto voice, Carlson cosplayed as a Philip Morris spokesperson, extolling the virtues of smoking cigarettes. “Why do they hate nicotine? Because nicotine frees your mind, and THC makes you compliant and passive,” he declared while suggesting there exists a government psy-op hooking Americans on weed. When he wasn’t pushing cigs on his viewers, Carlson was bringing on insurrectionist and Joker wannabe Roger Stone to critique Don Lemon for daring to wear a hoodie/suit jacket combo. “There is bad taste, but then if you continue along the spectrum, you get to self-harm, and that is where he is. He is hurting himself,” Carlson declared at one point. Real trailblazing stuff here at 8 p.m. on Fox News. The rest of the hour, meanwhile, featured the Fox star interviewing someone called “The Egg Hustler,” fear-mongering about “lizard overlords” at Davos, and daring someone to “come and take” his gas stove. We can only guess how much sillier it will get.
Confider will be back next week with more saucy scooplets. In the meantime, subscribe here and send us questions, complaints, or tips here.
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