OZY Fest 2017: Tremendous Potential But So Disappointing



OZY Media, which launched in 2013, held their second annual OZY Fest this past Saturday in Central Park at Rumsey Playfield.

  • It’s positioned as a new type of SXSW or “TED Meets Coachella”
  • All I can say is NOPE – not even close.
  • I can’t quite put my finger on what makes it come off as such a strange mishmash of ideas, but it doesn’t work.
  • Part of the problem may be the location. Central Park is not conducive to talks of this kind – there are too many distractions – and it’s too weather-dependent.

Because I had not been familiar with OZY, I did some research and what I found is not good news for the brand (which also explains why there were only eight sponsors for the event, three of which I had to google).

  • OZY initially began with an ad-driven, web-based business model.
  • Traffic to its main site, Ozy.com, declined 41% to 6.4 million unique U.S. visitors in December from just under 11 million a year earlier. (Source: WSJ/comScore)
  • The competition in the millennial news space is fierce. OZY is up against VICE, Buzzfeed, Mic, Vox, Cheddar, Bustle, Fusion among others.
  • And all the mainstream news sites e.g. CNN are going after the same audience. Whether OZY can survive is a big question mark.

Read on below for what needs immediate fixing should there be an OZY Fest 2018.

 Get rid of that 80’s/90’s teen throwback design vibe


  • The OZY Fest graphics communicate the type of teen fashion/beauty products that you’d find at the mall in the 80’s e.g. Esprit, LA Looks, Teen Spirit.
  • Nothing about the event’s visuals communicated intelligence, forward-looking ideas, tastemakers, great design.
  • I’m a visual person and the aesthetics of this event really threw me off.


Replace the awkward layout/set up for the speakers

  • As we arrived, Malcolm Gladwell was addressing a small audience from an open-air Platform at the center of the venue.



  • Few people appeared to be listening intently. They were checking out their phones, chatting, wandering around, eating.
  • And for those that did want to listen, it was not very agreeable to sit on the ground on the astroturf in the sweltering sun.
  • No shade of any kind – and it was over 90 degrees



  • Dr. Biden, meanwhile, was giving a talk in a tent called The Town Square that was impossible to get into – even though it turns out there were seats available but the entrance to the tent was jammed with camera crews.
  • Eddie Huang, of food and entertainment fame, gave his cooking demonstration and talk in an area called 1818, a smaller side venue where nobody except the first few rows could hear him. Watch my video above and tell me if you can hear anything.


VIP Area



  • For an additional fee, you could get seating in a fenced off area but with no direct access to Town Square (which is where the biggest names were speaking).
  • You did, however, have prime seating for the entertainment and talks by many of the hip hop social activists e.g. Talib Kweli.


Bottom Line:

  • They must find an alternative to Central Park if they want to build this into an important “speaker” series.
  • People need to have easy access to the talks and be able to hear what the speakers have to say.



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