I really enjoyed the chance to cover the industry at a place that wasn’t paying a ton of attention, but was paying more over time, and then actually began to cover the ways that these tech companies I was writing about were changing my industry, and so came up with the idea for The Information. Do you think your readers are fundamentally interested in different kinds of stories than they would be if they were going to a free site? and it’s great you mention HBO, to me they’re a model branding this new media zone that we’re in. They are something that people want to identify with, that you don’t just wait and see what shows up in Twitter, you actually go to the programming actively. You’re three years into this, prior to that you had a long impressive run at the Wall Street Journal, and prior to that you were in college. You shot right out of school and said, “I know what I want to do, I want to do technology journalism,” and then you said, “I want to start my own technology journalism company.” Boom. I remember interviewing Ze Frank when he was a vlogger, that was the term we used. Anything with Apple in the title, obviously, and then Uber, Amazon, Trump, all things that make sense if you’ve ever looked at web traffic. I’m sure you are, but you’re not dependent on it for your revenue.I remember talking to editors, or getting edits back on stories about Facebook. But prior to that you knew Mark Zuckerberg in college. I think the great companies and the great CEOs kind of manage through that, and we’ll see, but it’s absolutely the role of people like us to continue to understand what’s going on internally, what kind of traction are these things seeing? Eight years, really successful there, media beat, technology beat. What was happening is, I was getting a lot of encouragement from my editors for liveblogging Apple press conferences, and stories that I just didn’t care, it wasn’t why I got up in the morning.You do have to wonder over time what employees and people working there think and choose to work on, and eventually something’s going to have to really gain some traction and start taking off. Were you thinking, “I’m just going to work my way up the masthead and one day I’m going to run the Wall Street Journal”? I got up in the morning to write stories other people weren’t writing, that would help business leaders make decisions. On the other hand it was like, there was this hole in the market for this other kind of journalism, which was the writing that would really focus on the new information for a certain audience. My colleagues, when I looked around, felt similarly, that they were being asked to spend their time writing the 19th version of a story just because it would generate a lot of traffic. We’re three years in, I think publishing some really great in-depth journalism about the tech industry. If you look at the number of unique reporters we have covering technology — Unique reporters? You introduced a student rate, and then there’s a super-high premium rate for 10 grand, but I assume most of them are paying 0 a year. What do your readers want to read about, besides awesome technology journalism? Writing about even some auto suppliers who might be for sale in the self-driving car movement, or key players like Velodyne in that industry with Li DAR, those are stories that are very big stories for us, that may not see a surge in certain types of traffic, but our subscribers recognize they’re at that intersection of where tech is interrupting their business. I think what surprised me is how much time I spend on recruiting and growing our team.
I think a lot of the work that I do, and other reporters do, and the work that you used to do as a reporter, is, sometimes it’s collaborative, and often you’re working with an editor, but really you’re off working on your own quite a lot. Across the board, entrepreneurs are a huge source of wisdom. Being great businesses because of their journalism, not having to tack on a multi-million dollar events business, or get into consulting. I just personally think it’s important, and it’s part of what excites me about this opportunity. On a relative basis, I don’t feel like I spend that much time doing it. Why that’s important is because we are doing original journalism, and that’s what we’re excited about, what’s driven our business, and what we think is an awesome business for the future. I was lucky, I joined the Journal at a time when technology was this new fancy shiny object, that a publication like the Wall Street Journal was still figuring out how to cover, so there was a lot of opportunity to be the first to important things like online video. We were just talking before you came up about what podcast episodes are doing well for us. On the ground, second only to Bloomberg, we have ... Yeah, a couple dozen all in, 13 full-time reporters. We find in terms of, whether it’s an in-depth look at how Magic Leap has been showing investors prototypes that aren’t really what they’re saying, or what’s happening to Tony Fadell at Nest, or it’s a thoughtful analysis that is pure commentary, or anything in between, if it isn’t already out there, it drives a lot of business. I’m speaking with Jessica Lessin from The Information. Explain what your business is.” There’s this uncomfortable back and forth, they try to explain that they’re not really a newsletter company, they’re a something else. Those people are great when I have some targeted issue I really want to put a lot of brains against. That, I think, can be critical, both in recruiting and also bringing clarity to prioritizing what the business is going to do and go after. Why is it important for you to go out there and bang the drum on behalf of your business? On the paid model, the death of news, I don’t think there’s any debate that you can sell certain kinds of news to a certain kind of audience.
Oftentimes when I have a guess on I say, “What do you do? The main business is a 0-a-year-subscription, and you’ve recently said you got to 10,000 subscribers. Have you gone to people in the industry and said, “Can you help me out, can I get advice from you”? We have an advisory group at The Information, just informal group of advisers, like Paul Steiger, former editor of the Wall Street Journal, Jim Vande Hei, now founder of Axios, John Doerr at Kleiner Perkins. Not culture as in what kind of snacks do you have, but someone once told me, I forget who it was, that the culture is really why everyone at your company is doing what they’re doing. It’s also a chance — I still write and report — and it is a chance to meet other interesting people and develop story ideas as well.
Peter Kafka: Today’s show is sponsored by Mack Weldon. Again, someone’s willingness to pay is just saying, “This is important to me.” There are people in those markets who are paying for Netflix, they’re paying for Spotify, and for a lot of other stuff. I loved all aspects of reporting, and just had awesome tutors who were the editors of the newspapers at school and all of that. A comment that implied women weren’t very good at science. This is one where I think people understand it, but maybe not to the degree they should, is just how incredibly far into the future and big picture he and the company are thinking.