Semafor, the much-discussed media outlet from Ben Smith (ex-Buzzfeed/New York Times) and Justin Smith (ex-Bloomberg), went live on Tuesday. There is a whole host of stories and newsletters available already. In a post introducing Semafor, Ben Smith wrote that the publication’s approach is “built from the core principles of journalism”.
We take people seriously when they say they know that reporters are human beings — and experts in their beats — who have views of their own. But they’d also like us to separate the facts from our views. They’d like us to be humble about the possibility of disagreement. And they’d like us to distill differing views, and gather global perspective.
The design, especially the homepage (pictued above) is quite intense. With breaking news on one side, newsletter subscription on the other. A main story is centred. It’s not the same, but the colour is giving me distinct Financial Times vibes. The stories are built on what the company calls the Semaform. Executive Editor Gina Chua explained:
This format separates the undisputed facts from the reporter’s analysis of those facts, provides different and more global perspectives, and shares strong journalism on the subject from other outlets.
Our goal is to provide more transparency, broader viewpoints, and distilled insights: to give readers more clarity about what we know, what we think, and a window into how others see the subject. We think navigating this complex world requires knowing the facts, and also understanding where others are coming from.
The Semaform has five sections – “The News,” “Reporter’s View,” “Room for Disagreement,” “The View From” and “Notable.” It clearly wants to have a distinctive format, like Axios does.
As CNBC noted, there have been some high-profile digital media sales in recent times and this could be a potential route for Semafor. For now though, it’s all about the news.