This week we hear from The Hustle’s Principle Reporter and Sunday Editor Zachary Crockett. He talks about his career path working across radio, newsletters, journalism and data, how he makes must-read long-form Sunday issues for The Hustle’s business audience, and launching a daily podcast, The Hustle Daily Show. He also discusses the skills young writers need today, and whether he thinks we’ve reached peak newsletter.

In the news roundup the team discusses the news that BuzzFeed investors are pushing Jonah Peretti to shutter the award-winning but loss-making BuzzFeed News. We ask if the investors are missing the appeal to advertisers, lament the loss of longform investigative work, and ask if this is the nail in the coffin for digital news pureplays (no). In the news roundup we look at why journalists should aim to be their own brands, why Future PLC has acquired two social media companies, and discuss the news that Michael Grade is set to be the new chair of Ofcom. Peter couldn’t get his mic to work for 20 minutes before we started recording, if you’re wondering.

The full transcript will be live here shortly, but for now, here are some highlights:

The value of spending time on good writing

A lot of media companies have a volumetric approach where they have the reporters write five to 10 stories a week. You might have an hour to file a story.

I understand the value there. But my philosophy has always been to just write one or two really good things each week, go really deep on them. And actually, there’s an argument to be made on the metrics side of things. I’ve found that the more time I invest in a story, the better it does, and I’m able to get as much traffic with one story as I might by writing seven to 10 shorter stories that maybe aren’t as thought through or as deep or impactful.

I would encourage media companies to allow the reporters to have a little bit more time to flex on deeper stories. There’s a business argument to be made.

Zachary’s advice for younger writers about necessary skills

I think we’re seeing a big shift in media right now. There’s a convergence of the Creator Economy, and journalism, and younger generations are getting their news on Twitter and TikTok, and people are increasingly subscribing to individuals rather than media brands, whether that’s through a Substack, a Patreon, or a YouTube channel.

To compete for eyeballs in those arenas, you really need a robust toolkit of skills. This is obviously just my opinion. But I’d strongly advise any young journalists to learn how to analyse their own data and make their own visuals.

How the Sunday email came about

When I first joined The Hustle, we were just a Monday through Friday newsletter. It was largely curation based; roundups of the top business news. And a few months in, I started laying out a case for what I thought we should really lean into original reporting. We were trying to grow out our subscriber list at the time, I think we were around 150,000 subscribers.

My theory was that we should be able to use storytelling as a driver of organic growth. So from the start, I knew that I wanted the Sunday to feel like an email version of a magazine. You have a big bold animation up top, lots of visuals, original reporting.

We explored all different types of stories. We did stories on lottery heists, and the economics of ridiculous things like all you can eat buffets. We profile the guy who has a monopoly on cleaning IMAX screens all over the United States. And I think that the beat of tech and business is so broad that it really lends itself to an exciting variety of stories.

Launching The Hustle Daily Show

The Daily Show is something we’ve wanted to do for a very long time. We’ve had a lot of readers write in and request it over the years. When we were acquired by HubSpot last year, we got a really big infusion of resources, both in terms of capital and just staff power. HubSpot has this incredible executive producer Darrin Clark, who I really jive with, we’re both musicians and he just gets the creative spirit of what we do.

So at the tail end of last year, we started brainstorming. We really quickly settled on a shorter format, we knew we wanted it to be around 10 to 15 minutes, just because there’s so much competition for people’s time. And we knew that we wanted it to centre around the major headlines and put a premium on information first. We also knew that we wanted it to blend humour and analysis and be irreverent and quirky and contrarian in some ways.

So over the last few months, we’ve produced probably eight or 10 pilots, put together a launch plan, and got it out the door earlier this year. And the reception has been really great. In our first month, we hit number one in the business news category in Apple charts. We had almost 200,000 downloads. Our goal was 25,000 the first month, so we’re really happy with how it’s turned out so far.

Main story:

BuzzFeed investors are pushing CEO Jonah Peretti to shut down the entire newsroom.

  • Last week we heard the Buzzfeed news app was going away. This week we heard Buzzfeed news as we knew it is mostly going away. The head of BuzzFeed News and two other top editors are departing the company ahead of cuts to the newsroom.
  • With about 100 employees, Buzzfeed News is said to be losing roughly $10 million a year. It’s offered voluntary buyouts to around 30 staff, reporters and editors in investigations, inequality, politics and science – that’s almost a third of the staff.
  • Several large shareholders have urged CEO Jonah Peretti to shut down the company’s Pulitzer prize winning news operation. One shareholder allegedly said shutting down the newsroom could add up to $300 million in market capitalisation to the struggling stock.
  • This is not a good time to be losing good news coverage, and it exposes VC-funded media for what it is at a time when Ukrainian media is fighting to get the truth out. It isn’t necessarily a shock though, considering how poorly Peretti and co treated HuffPost UK journalists… just very very badly done all round  
  • It’s not going away completely though, they’re going to focus on ‘profitable’ news segments. “We will prioritize investments around coverage of the biggest news of the day, culture and entertainment, celebrity and life on the internet,” Mr. Peretti said.
  • One interesting side note was during the earnings call, Peretti repeatedly mentioned ‘the shift in audience time away from Facebook’. This has had a big impact on their commerce revenues (which declined 26%).

News in brief:

  • Future PLC has acquired two social media companies. WhatCulture is a social-first brand focused on the gaming and entertainment market, and Waive is a data-insights start-up which uses machine learning to identify social trends. What Culture primarily produces YouTube content, with 11 channels, 8 million subscribers and four billion views.
  • If you thought Paul Dacre not getting the role of Ofcom chair meant that the BBC would be spared the wrath of angry old white men, think again. As Jane Martinson points out in an excellent op-ed this week for the Guardian, the government’s chosen candidate Michael Grade is just as big a threat to the Beeb as Dacre would have been – albeit with the benefit of having worked in broadcasting himself. A very good read if you want to understand the cynicism behind the attempts to stifle the BBC.
  • In Thursday’s newsletter Esther ran a piece about how having your own brand is key to survival. It absolutely is, and publishers need to find a way to work with staff on this. Set guidance by all means, but if you love them, let them be free.

 


Our daily newsletter The Media Roundup brings you the four most important industry stories for media and publishing professionals. Subscribe here: