Over the summer, journalists John Heilemann and John Battelle teased out a new project they’d been cooking up: a video venture called The Recount that delivers bite-size “remixes” of the day’s biggest political stories Now they’re ready for the official rollout. Recount Media is coming out of beta mode this week with eight seed investors kicking in nearly $10 million between them The initial round was led by veteran New York financier Fred Wilson, who cofounded the company with Heilemann and Battelle Other backers include Jay-Z’s Arrive venture fund, Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures, Robert Wolf’s 32 Ventures, Jon Callaghan’s True Ventures, Ron Conway’s SV Angel, and a couple of individuals whose names remain under wraps In addition to Heilemann and Battelle, who are Recount Media’s editor in chief and CEO, respectively, the company’s leadership team includes Disney vet Kenny Miller as president, BuzzFeed vet James Burns as CTO, and Viacom vet Nomi Leidner, who becomes Recount’s executive vice president of programming and development after nearly five years running Vice Media’s struggling cable channel, Viceland Slade Sohmer, formerly of Mic and CNN video startup Beme, manages the newsroom of roughly 20, overseeing the daily flow “The basic premise that began this,” said Heilemann, “was that, over the course of 30 years, from the Clinton impeachment to the 2000 recount to 9/11 and the Iraq War to Obama and Palin and all the stuff in 2008, all the way up to Trump, you’ve seen this series of black-swan events The church of politics got broader and broader to the point where now, everybody’s talking about politics all the time On the other side of things, there’s this huge platform shift happening where we’re going through the transition from linear television to the world of streaming, mobile, on-demand digital video There wasn’t really an answer to the question of, on your phone, where do you go to see what’s happening in politics right now? People do a good job summarizing in text what’s [currently] happening in politics, but there’s not really an answer to that question [with video] At some point in the not-too-distant future, someone was going to build the thing that was to this age, for politics, what ESPN was to sports in the age of cable ” Heilemann, a longtime politics reporter and co-author with disgraced journalist Mark Halperin of Game Change and Double Down, who more recently evolved into the loquacious dean of political junkie-dom, decided to build such a thing himself The question, of course, is whether the world does, in fact, need a digital short-form political-news video publication—or app, mobile platform, call it what you will—at a time when people are already trying to keep up with a million other apps, newsletters, podcasts, and briefings about this, that, and the other, including politics Moreover: In a perilous new-media landscape, known for mergers and fire sales and write-downs and mass firings and valuation fatigue, does the world really need another digital content company at all? Heilemann and Battelle, who met working at Wired magazine in the early ’90s, didn’t flinch when I pressed them on these points “There are over 150 million people who actively seek out news,” said Battelle. “We are focusing, initially, on professionals in the information economy who are really busy and just want to get dinner-party smart on what’s going on in politics The key audience we’re going after is very, very large and very underserved.”Most PopularAs Impeachment Heats Up, Jared and Ivanka Throw a Party at Camp DavidBy Emily Jane FoxJohn Legend and Chrissy Teigen on Love, Childhood Traumas, and the “Sh–ty Human Being” in the White HouseBy Karen ValbyAll That Booing Revealed the True Face of Donald TrumpBy Kenzie BryantAdvertisement Heilemann added: “There are a whole lot of people out there who are not going to sit in front of cable all day long, or even at the primetime hours For people who want to read, the market is crowded with newsletters and print products All that stuff exists out there, but none of it exists in video.” Back to Battelle: “There have been a lot of digital media companies in the last two years that started by taking shitloads of money and had a huge amount of hubris about how they were going to transform the world, and then they got their asses kicked We now sit in a position where we can look at what those guys have done right and wrong ” In the short term, Recount’s revenue will primarily come from sponsorships—Bank of America, Comcast, Mozilla—of its daily video remixes, which stand to benefit from 2020 fever (They’re also developing a set of topical weekly remixes, starting with Heilemann on 2020 ) Events are in the mix too, including a CNN-esque candidate town hall series, starting this weekend with Michael Bennet in Des Moines The longer-term strategy is to supplement the daily remix model with an original content component That’s what Recount viewers will eventually have to pay for, and the company also plans to develop stuff it can potentially sell to other platforms—imagine, say, a six-part series for Hulu or Netflix or whoever, at 30 minutes per episode, shorter clips that could be repurposed for Recount subscribers Recount recently struck a partnership with David Chang’s Majordomo Media to produce short-form videos as well as events, focused on the intersection of food and political culture (Think Anthony Bourdain interviewing Barack Obama in Hanoi.) But it’s too early to talk about all of that in detail, according to Battelle and Heilemann, who did, however, say, “As tens of millions of people migrate to watching video in smaller bites, how do you figure out the economics of that, and the narrative form that’s consumable on one platform in your living room and a different one on your phone?” Heilemann will continue to appear on MSNBC and as the cohost of Showtime’s The Circus “The Circus is my heart and soul, and that’s not going to change, at least not through the end of the 2020 election,” he said Indeed, Recount has a feature called The Center Wing built on material from The Circus that was left on the cutting room floor As a footnote, I brought up Heilemann’s high-profile split with Halperin, with whom he’d been working on another book before a #MeToo controversy put the brakes on Halperin’s career Does Heilemann plan on repurposing any of that material for a future literary project, say, about Trump and 2020? “I have no news on that front,” he said — How one industry is bleeding Wall Street dry of talent— Ronan Farrow’s producer reveals how NBC killed its Weinstein story— Ivanka’s $360 million deal is raising eyebrows at the FBI— The big turn for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign— Why a leading neurocriminologist left Joker completely stunned— The Fox News movie’s uncanny depictions of the network’s drama— From the Archive: The real-life story of the security guard turned bombing suspect at the heart of Clint Eastwood’s latest movie Looking for more? 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Mitt Romney has had a tough week trying to
explain secretly recorded remarks he made at a fundraiser last May, in which he said forty seven percent of
americans don’t pay federal income taxes and think of themselves as victims.
They see themselves as victims. He now says that he’s really for the hundred percent in
America, is anybody going to buy that given that dim vision of half the country?
He seemed to write off, he didn’t say well these are people who are in hard times but they
want to get out of our times, he was basically saying they’re forty seven percent, they’re victims,
they feel entitled and they’re never going to vote for me anyway so i’m not
going to worry about them. if your quote “dependent on government” which includes
senior citizens getting medicare and the like, well then I
can’t really now expect your vote, it just, it was a blow.
People seeing themselves as victims and dependent on the government and all that,
it’s not true and therefore very unfortunate. One strategist who’s
been involved in a lot of these campaigns said when he saw that video it was the
first time he thought he was seeing the real Romney that’s a problem in your most uh…
troubled moment is the one people think is the most authentic moment.
This is a man who has said a lot of things that cause voters out there to go woah, he doesn’t get me at all including the forty seven percent.
This is a defining moment in the campaign who’s the real Mitt Romney? The one who said that he didn’t have
to worry about forty seven percent of the people, or the one who told us at
a Univision meeting that he wanted to be the president for
one hundred percent of americans? The problem is that back in
february if you remember in an interview with CNN, he also said that he was not
concerned about the very poor, so honestly as a journalist he has
to get out of that box. He offered political analysis but policy analysis
on forty seven percent of this country including a lot of republican voters people who receive entitlements through
social security and medicare that they paid into he’s talking about this group of people will not take
personal responsibility, it betrayed a lack of understanding of how the government
works, how america works, the american work ethic. Do you think he needs to go
beyond saying that this was inelegant, to saying that he was flat wrong?