Ben Smith named his new website Semafor

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When Ben Smith, the New York Times media columnist and former editor of BuzzFeedand Justin Smith (no family ties, only a blogging brother), the former CEO of Bloombergannounced last week that their new media venture was going to be named after a word that was universal in “25 or 35 different languages,” we could have sworn it would be Soup or Mum.

How naive were we, mom? The Smiths, of course, did some market research to see what would appeal best to their target readers, the underserved and disrespected population of “200 million people who are college-educated, who read in English, but no one really treat like an audience, but who talk to each other and talk to us.

And what’s the one thing we know for sure about this mysterious demographic? They buy pants, retinol and generic Monoxodil on Instagram. And that’s why the Smiths chose to name their company Semafor, which sounds exactly like the name of a direct-to-consumer Instagram company that was tested and recommended by an unbiased board of dermatologists from the National Eczema Association.

Of course, Semafor isn’t actually a recognizable word in English, but those of us who rode a school bus from suburban Chicago to the Illinois State Latin competition in Peoria in 2008 know its ancient phonetic roots (I’m not naming names, but a source close to Gawker tells me that this group of insufferable know-it-alls is an even more disadvantaged population than Smith’s legendary group of 200 million graduate talkers university and news consumers). It means “carrier of a signal”. Sure!

While you wait for your Semafor shipment to arrive at your doorstep, be sure to check out another newly named publication, Compact, a journal promoting “a strong social democratic state that defends the community – local and national, family and religious – against a libertine left and a libertarian right Fun fact – he shares a name with a neo-Nazi German neo-fascist magazine who was banned from Facebook. Although now that I think about it, doesn’t that sound like an Instagram luggage business?



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