Former ‘Times’ digital chief takes a board seat at social network Sulia

Martin Nisenholtz. ()
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Martin Nisenholtz, who served a 16-year stint at The New York Times Company as chief of digital, has accepted a spot on the board of Sulia, a New York-based startup that bills itself as "the world's first subject-based social network."

“Sulia is creating a new and powerful social experience,” said Nisenholtz, in a statement. "By algorithmically curating experts and their content into real-time channels, Sulia’s technology generates live expert panels on every important subject.”

Nisenholtz left the Times Company last December. He was credited with executing the company's biggest digital moves, all the way back to the launch of nytimes.com in 1996, but was said to have clashed toward the end with then-C.E.O. Janet Robinson, thus expediting his retirement from the company. (Nisenholtz was reportedly in the camp that wanted to keep nytimes.com free, whereas Robinson championed the paid digital model the company adopted last year.)

At Sulia, “Martin’s experience gives us a tremendous advantage as we scale the network of experts and broaden our channels,” said Sulia C.E.O. Jonathan Glick (and a Times alumnus himself) wrote in a statement.

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As with many newfangled social startups these says, we're still not sure exactly what Sulia is or does, so we'll let the company's boilerplate speak for itself:

Sulia channels make sense of the chaotic world of social content for consumers by providing them with one place to discover the strongest voices and the best content on the subjects they care about. Users can further improve the experience by adding their friends and favorite sources to any channel, providing them with subject-specific updates from both the top sources and the people they know.

Secondary social-network products aren't always very stable, since established social networks have an incentive to provide these ancillary products themselves. Sulia had raised millions of dollars before getting Twitter's seal of approval last March, when the company struck a deal with the social-media titan to provide publishers, including The Washington Post, WSJ.com and Gannett, "with premium streams of Twitter content from the best-regarded sources."

But then Twitter changed course, and so has Sulia. And there are no hard feelings: Last week, Sulia's Jonathan Glick told Peter Kafka of AllThingsD: “They weren’t secretive about the fact that in the long run they were going to want to do all this themselves ... When we asked them if we were going to end up competing with an internal product, they would say ‘yes.’ I thought it was fundamentally decent of them.”

Kafka's assessment:

Glick’s challenge now is to make Sulia sticky, and to convince people with followings on other sites and services to publish their stuff with him, too.