Dan Abrams wants in on the media blogging and aggregation business.
For the past several months, Mr. Abrams—the chief legal analyst for NBC News and head of the nascent media strategy firm Abrams Research—has been meeting with various New York-based media reporters, editors, and bloggers about the potential editorial venture.
To date, nobody has signed on for the job.
“I think it’s very possible that I will pursue an on-line Web property that will include some level of blogging of and about the media,” Mr. Abrams confirmed to The Observer on Wednesday afternoon. “But we’re still not there yet.”
“It is true that I have talked to a number of people about creating what I view as an on-line home for members of the media,” he added. “I’ve had some really informative, instructive conversations with some really interesting people. I’ve learned a lot from them.”
Mr. Abrams declined to say whom he had met with. But the Observer has learned the list of writers and editors who’ve spoken to Mr. Abrams includes Gawker’s politics editor Alex Pareene, Advertising Age ‘Media Guy‘ columnist Simon Dumenco, former New York Magazine senior editor Jesse Oxfeld, Portfolio‘s Mixed Media blogger Jeff Bercovici, and The Observer‘s own John Koblin.
So far none of the conversations have resulted in a hiring.
“We talked,” confirmed Mr. Oxfeld, who’s been consulting on the relaunch of Next Book and freelancing since he was laid off from New York in December. “It’s a really interesting offer but not what I’m looking for.”
“It was flattering to be asked,” said Mr. Pareene. “People are working there that I like and respect.”
When Mr. Abrams announced the creation of Abrams Research in November, he told The Observer that 650 people had applied to become “experts” in various areas of the media and that he hoped to one day amass 20,000 names of “TV, online media, and print people” willing to offer, as the company’s Web site advertises, “insights, data and personnel never before available to businesses for image enhancement, branding, investigative reporting and the execution of the best media plan.”
Which of these things is not like the other? The idea of a firm that advises businesses on media strategy employing working journalists who would continue simultaneously to do journalism attracted its share of criticism from, well, journalists. Writing on New York‘s Daily Intel blog, Jessica Pressler asked, “Isn’t this kind of the dark side?”
So how would the new editorial venture relate to the media strategy firm?
“I am always trying to find vehicles for my community of experts,” said Mr. Abrams. “If and when I create an additional web property of and about the media, the editorial side of it will be entirely separate and distinct from Abrams Research, the business.”
How would that work?
“I’m not going to get too specific,” said Mr. Abrams. “I don’t know all the answers yet. I’m certainly trying to think of ways to monetize it so that people who are members of the media and members of the Abrams Research network would be able to blog and write about their area of expertise.”
Several candidates and less-sure prospects came away from conversations with Mr. Abrams with the impression that he wants to create something like a “Drudge meets The Huffington Post” site, full of screamer headlines—or maybe a “super-aggregator” covering all aspects of magazines, TV news, and digital media through an explicit “winners and losers” lens.
Sources quoted salaries ranging from $50,000 to $80,000, and responsibilities varied depending on the interviewee from overseeing a team of writers and free Huffington Post-style bloggers, to being part of a two-person blogging and aggregation team, to being a one-man band.
Several people said Mr. Abrams is seeking to maximize “S.E.O.” (search engine optimization) and use the editorial product to drive users to become clients of Abrams Research.
“I’ve had a number of brainstorming sessions,” said Mr. Abrams. “I think it is definitely premature at this point to be talking about staffing, salary, anything like that.”
Several sources who spoke with Mr. Abrams about the job worried the job would put them off the track of journalism and on the track of P.R.; despite the harsh economic climate for journalism, it was a step they weren’t yet quite ready to take. Once you go flack, they say, you never go back.
“I don’t entirely understand what the Abrams’ consulting company does,” said one person. “It’s sort of a P.R. firm. I don’t want to work for a P.R. firm.”
Mr. Abrams said that his media strategy firm is already “very profitable,” and that whether the editorial project will eventually take off will ultimately depend on business considerations.
“It’s going to come down to whether it makes financial sense,” said Mr. Abrams.