Veteran music critic Sasha Frere-Jones will be leaving The New Yorker to join the startup Genius, formerly known as Rap Genius, an annotation website. The move might come as a surprise to many, but there has been a growing trend in recent years for well-respected journalists to leave print media and join tech startups.
The New York Times was the first to report on Sunday that Frere-Jones would be quitting The New Yorker to join Genius as an executive editor. They have also hired New Yorker contributor Christopher Glazek to annotate political texts. The site will look to continue its hiring spree as it seeks to add contributors with specialist expertise. The New Yorker’s loss could prove to be a huge gain for Genius as it seeks to raise the quality and accuracy of its annotations. They raised over $40 million in funding last July.
Genius, which launched in 2009, was founded by Mahbod Moghadam, Tom Lehman, and Ilan Zechory. The site allows users to add annotations to lyrics, news, poetry, art and more. It initially started out as Rap Genius, allowing users to see various interpretations of rap lyrics and giving them the ability to add their own annotations while at the same time allowing them to listen to the music. Over the past couple of years, it has diversified its interests and allowed users to add annotations to art pieces, news pieces, poetry and given them the ability to embed annotations in other websites. It changed its name from Rap Genius to Genius in July 2014 to reflect its change in direction.
The site has had its fair share of highs and lows in its short existence. Nas and various members of Wu-Tang Clan have verified accounts on the website and regularly contribute to it. Rapper Kanye West is also a fan of the site and has even submitted a mock-up of a redesign to an investor in the site. However, the site was also in a tangle with Google, which led to it being demoted in Google’s search results for using link spam to improve its rank. Founder Mahbod Moghadam had to resign in May last year over his inappropriate annotations on a manifesto by Elliot Rodgers.