Justin Smith and Ben Smith, co-proprietors of a new media start-up that has captured the attention of the online news world, revealed on Tuesday the name for their venture: Semafor.
The name is a variation on the word “semaphore,” a visual signaling apparatus often involving flags, lights and arm gestures, and often used in a nautical context.
At an appearance last week, Justin Smith said he and his partner had selected a brand name “that is the same word in 25 or 35 different languages,” a reflection of the company’s global ambitions. “It is very intentionally going to be able to live in Asia or Europe or the Middle East or America,” Mr. Smith said.
The choice of Semafor was revealed on Tuesday by Axios, a news site that also began life as a high-profile start-up with an unusual name derived from a Greek word.
“It was really important for us to have a name that had the same meaning regardless of your native tongue,” Justin Smith, a former chief executive of Bloomberg Media, told the site.
This is not the first time Justin Smith has expressed interest in a brand name derived from ancient Greek.
On at least one previous media project, Mr. Smith strongly considered using the word “Atlas,” a person familiar with his brainstorming said. His idea for The Atlas did not ultimately go forward.
Justin Smith and Ben Smith, who is a former media columnist for The New York Times, intend to recruit English-speaking journalists in many countries to compete with international news organizations like Reuters and The Associated Press. The Smiths, who are not related, said they expected the site to debut in the second half of the year.
A federal trademark registration for Semafor, filed on Jan. 16, refers to “an interactive website featuring news and information in the fields of general interest news.” Along with “providing news and information,” the registration cites a number of business purposes, including “talent agency and booking services,” “literary agency services, namely, representation of journalistic talent,” and “arranging personal appearances by persons working in the field of news journalism and public affairs.”
Only a handful of English words are the same or similar in many foreign languages, including taxi, chai, pajama and soup.
Kitty Bennett contributed research.
Source: NY Times