11:14 am Jun. 27, 2012
Ed O'Keefe, the executive producer of ABC News Digital, will leave the network in July for a job as editor-in-chief of a forthcoming social video-news site currently being referred to as Planet Daily, a new company from Lerer Ventures about which little is known since it is still operating in "stealth mode."
O'Keefe's exit was announced by ABC News president Ben Sherwood in a staff memo this morning; a spokesman for Lerer Ventures, the venture-capital fund run by Huffington Post cofounder and BuzzFeed funder Ken Lerer and former Huffington Post C.E.O. Eric Hippeau, confirmed that O'Keefe is going to Planet Daily.
O'Keefe's hire, and the recent news that Washington Post executive digital news director Katharine Zaleski was leaving the paper for Planet Daily, suggest that things there are ramping up quickly.
Sherwood's memo described O'Keefe's rise from desk assistant in ABC's Washington bureau back in 2000 to the senior digital position in which he made "his biggest impact" at the network.
"Let’s wish him well on this next, big adventure," said Sherwood.
One of the biggest initiatives in which O'Keefe was involved during his tenure was the integration last year of ABC News Digital with Yahoo! News, a partnership that widened the already gargantuan reach of the two web properties and resulted in record traffic.
As of May, the "Yahoo!-ABC News Network" was far and away the No. 1 title in comScore's traffic ranking of "general news" web properties, logging a whopping 266,749,000 monthly unique visitors. (The Huffington Post Media Group and the CNN Network ranked second and third with roughly 94 million and 83.5 million uniques respectively.)
"The ABC News-Yahoo alliance has been absolutely transformative in terms of our ability to reach our audience in new and dynamic ways," said O'Keefe in a YouTube video posted back in February. "We are a traditional broadcast organization entering a digital future. ... It has transformed the way we look at our digital outreach and everything we do at ABC News to be a part of that new digital reality."
O'Keefe's exit is the latest in a series of changes at the top of ABC News's digital arm over the past few years.
He was promoted to executive producer of ABC News Digital in 2010 amidst a broader leadership reorganization in which ABCNews.com vice president Jon Dube took a buyout. Last April, the network's digital chief, Paul Slavin, whose career at ABC began in 1984 when he joined as a reporter, left after being passed over for the job that went to Sherwood. Slavin was replaced by Joe Ruffolo, a former AOL executive.
There's no word yet on O'Keefe's replacement.
You can read Sherwood's full memo below:
After nearly 12 years with ABC News, Ed O’Keefe is leaving us next month to pursue an entrepreneurial opportunity as editor-in-chief of a social news video start-up.
Like so many in the ABC News family, Ed started his career as a desk assistant in Washington. He hit the ground running on 9/11 literally – his first day as the Senate producer.
Ed’s digital future was foretold when his blog on Trent Lott’s controversial remarks at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party led to the eventual resignation of the Majority Leader – an improbable event at the time, immortalized by a Harvard study calling the moment the “Internet’s first scalp.”
Ed did a little TV too – putting ABC first on the air with Sen. John Kerry’s concession in 2004 and, yes, that’s George Clooney mocking him.
Perhaps Ed’s greatest impact was in Digital: When he arrived as Senior Political Editor, ABCNews.com was #16 in the rankings. When he departs as Executive Producer, he leaves ABCNews.com at #1.
Please join me in thanking Ed for his many contributions to ABC News and let’s all wish him well on his next big adventure.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This item was updated from an original version, with specifics about O'Keefe's new role at the stealth media company from Lerer Ventures presently being called "Planet Daily." Due to an editing error, the item originally stated that Washington Post managing editor Liz Spayd rather than executive digital news director Katharine Zaleski had left the paper for Planet Daily.
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