The Substack Podcast #7 Jessica Lessin, founder of The Information

Full podcast here.

  • Why become a journalist?: I felt the best job in the world was not having to pick one job. To have the license to learn about any subject at any time. (1:06)

  • I started to notice incredible business opportunities in the news industry that all traditional newsrooms were missing out on - chief among them was being a subscription business that is accountable to readers and not to advertisers. (4:29)

  • The opportunity for The Information: Media outlets are relying on sensational headlines and idle speculation and not original reporting to make their versions stand out. (5:12)

  • If you can provide original, important stories that are valuable - there is a market for that. I had conviction in the product. The unknowns were the timing, the scaling, etc rather than is there something of value here. (8:54)

  • A lot of people scoffed at the idea that The Information would charge $400 a year. What were you thinking when you set that price? I was thinking that is the amount of value we can deliver. There is not an inherently good or bad price- it has to match the value of the service. (9:47)

  • I’m still baffled when people talk about price and not the value it’s delivering to the target demographic. (10:34)

  • Our goal is to build the most authoritative, influential, valuable newsroom of business journalists period. (13:53)

  • How did you start the information: we picked up the phone and started reporting. We put up a Wordpress site and started publishing stories. On that site, we asked people for their email if they wanted to know when we launched. (15:58)

  • Leading with the content first is always a wise strategy. (17:48)

  • Tech isn’t just this thing that happens in Silicon Valley - it permeates and intersects with all areas of business. (23:12)

  • Knowing other founders has been valuable as a founder. (28:00)

  • Founders that succeed are ridiculously good at focus and execution. Being clear about what they need to be good at. They track that relentlessly. (29:16)

  • I am of the extreme thinking that media and venture capital are not a good fit period. Venture capital is very expensive capital. You give up control and optionality with each round that you raise. You are closing off your options as a business. (32:38)

  • The Information Accelerator is a program that invests in journalists who want to start subscription news businesses. To help them get up the curve faster. There’s a sense that the news industry is dead. That it’s impossible to start new things. That we are doomed to a world of fake news. That is not the future we see or want to see. (34:40)

  • You have to start by being great at one thing. It’s better to be known for something then not really known for a lot of things. It’s better to be loved by 100 customers than be liked by 1,000. (38:44)

  • I think there is no inherent limit to how large our audience could be. (42:37)