Ben Smith’s Book ‘Traffic’ Getting Docuseries Treatment From Atlas Media

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Semafor founder Ben Smith’s book Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral, is set to get the docuseries treatment.

Atlas Media Corp., the non-fiction production company, has optioned the book for a docuseries.

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Traffic chronicles the rise and heyday of digital media companies like BuzzFeed and Gawker Media.

But Smith looks at the digital media brands through the lens of the people who founded them, in particular Gawker’s Nick Denton and HuffPost and BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti. That focus on ego and competition between founders craving, well, traffic, would naturally lend itself to the personality-driven docuseries treatment.

Smith, of course, sat at the middle of that era. Smith wrote for Politico before becoming the first editor-in-chief for BuzzFeed, building out its news operation. he would go on to write the media column for The New York Times before founding Semafor last year.

Now, of course, many of the digital media giants of the mid-aughts are in shambles. BuzzFeed, which once raised money at a $1.7 billion valuation (Peretti also turned down a $650 million acquisition offer by Disney), now trades at a market cap of $43 million, and is at risk of being delisted from the Nasdaq. BuzzFeed News was shut down, with the company’ news division moving to HuffPost, which was acquired by BuzzFeed in 2021.

Gawker Media filed for bankruptcy after Hulk Hogan’s infamous lawsuit (financed by Peter Thiel), and the current owner of what’s left of its assets just this week said that it was shutting down the Jezebel brand.

And Vice Media, which was once valued at $5.7 billion, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

The traffic, it turns out, was fleeting, which is why Smith’s new venture Semafor takes a more focused approach, built around targeted newsletters and live events.

Atlas Media has produced documentary films, docuseries and other non-fiction content for the likes of HBO, Netflix the Warner Bros. Discovery networks and others. Their films have included Meat Loaf: In Search of Paradise, and series have included Dr. G: Medical Examiner.

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