Journalism, Subscriptions, and Podcasting | Li Jin and Nathan Baschez on Venture Stories

Check out the Venture Stories Podcast Page

Key Takeaways

  • The two waves of media:
    • The first wave was fueled by cheap audience acquisition from social media companies like Facebook which created BuzzFeed and UpWorthy
    • The second wave is the subscription wave
  • Consumers want curation, contextualization, and recommendations
    • “Like how do they sort through all of the information that’s out there and have a trusted resource to guide them through that deluge of information” – Li Jin
      • Subscription newsletters have taken off because they provide readers with curation, contextualization, and recommendations
  • Journalists spend years developing sources, building expertise in a specific domain, and can help readers contextualization what is going on in the world
    • Just like how investors put their money into VC firms to invest their money, people need journalists to make sense of information
  • Many journalists will join the passion economy and work for themselves but you’ll also have journalists who prefer a steady income and working under an established organization
    • Not every writer is economically driven to optimize their income
    • Some writers appreciate the prestige and social status of working for a famous media company like the NYT
    • Going independent requires the  writer to accept tremendous risks and uncertainties 
  • It’s difficult to create a subscription service to monetize a podcast because there are so many podcasts that deliver lots of great content for free
    • However, in other markets and countries where English isn’t the main language, we could see podcasts pop-up that can thrive on a subscription model

Intro

About Nathan & Li

  • Nathan worked at Gimlet media and Substack 
    • At Substack, he got to see how journalists and creators build their own businesses
  • Li used to be a reporter for The Harvard Crimson

The World of Media

  • The two waves of media:
    • The first wave was fueled by cheap audience acquisition from social media companies like Facebook which created BuzzFeed and UpWorthy
    • The second wave is the subscription wave
      • More media companies are shifting their business model to subscription and some companies, like Substack, are completely focused on the subscription model
  • When it comes to investing in media, Li likes to work backward from the end consumer
    • Right now, people need a better way to filter for the most important information. Social media and the internet are great because they gave everyone a voice, but it has also flooded the web with information 
      • Consumers want curation, contextualization, and recommendations
        • “Like how do they sort through all of the information that’s out there and have a trusted resource to guide them through that deluge of information” – Li Jin
          • Subscription newsletters have taken off because they provide readers with curation, contextualization, and recommendations
  • Even if you build a media company a ton of users love, it doesn’t necessarily translate to revenue
    • Another great lesson: Have a direct relationship with your audience
      • If you rely on Facebook for traffic and FB changes their algorithm, you’re in deep trouble
  • In the future, expect to see the bundling of newsletters
    • Just like how Spotify bundled different albums, a new company may emerge that bundles different writers
      • Bundling generates more revenue for creators and more value to consumers
        • Bundles are most effective when people have a wide range of interests

The Future of Journalism

  • Journalist still have value and will be around for the near future even though right now there’s a higher supply than demand for them
    • Journalists spend years developing sources, building expertise in a specific domain, and can help readers contextualization what is going on in the world
      • Just like how investors put their money into VC firms to invest their money, people need journalists to make sense of information
  • Many journalists will join the passion economy and work for themselves but you’ll also have a journalist who prefers a steady income and working under an established organization
    • Not every writer is economically driven to optimize their income
    • Some writers appreciate the prestige and social status of working for a famous media company like the NYT
    • Going independent requires the  writer to accept tremendous risks and uncertainties 

Thoughts on Substack

  • Why should writers use Substack if they take a percentage of their earnings?
    • It saves writers the headache of building their own website and handling payments
    • Unless you’re one of the top writers who is earning millions of dollars a year, it’s probably not worth your time to create your own site
  • Substack is also working on building distribution to help writers reach more readers just like how YouTube helps creators find more viewers

Thoughts on Podcasts

  • It’s difficult to create a subscription service to monetize a podcast because there are so many podcasts that deliver lots of great content for free
    • However, in other markets and countries where English isn’t the main language, we could see podcasts pop-up that can thrive on a subscription model
      • Ben Thompson is one of the few examples of building a successful paid podcast 
  • Trying to create a private RSS feed is a hassle. If you’re going to enact a paywall on your podcast, it would be wise to do it through your own app.
    • E.g: The New York Times could share their podcast through their app and allow only paying subscribers to listen to it
  • If you build up a large audience through an ad-supported business, it’s difficult to have them switch over to a subscription model business

Additional Notes

  • Journalist and sources shouldn’t have too much of a cozy relationships; there should be some tension between both
Venture Stories : , , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

More Notes on these topics

Top Insights and Tactics From

31 Best Podcasts of All Time

FREE when you join over 25,000 subscribers to the
Podcast Notes newsletter

No Thanks