This article is part of an ongoing series profiling participants in the PubTech Connect conference, presented on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 by PW and the NYU School of Professional Studies Center for Publishing.
Innovative content comes from—or comes in answer to—innovative business strategies. At PubTech Connect, we’re bringing together four of the most forward-thinking business people in media—execs from Vox Media, Food52, Anchor, and Thunderclap—for the panel “The Innovators: Calculating Risks, Creating New Audiences.”
In her company bio, Vox Media publisher Melissa Bell describers herself as a person who “likes to write and likes to read and likes to think about how the Internet can make both of those activities all the better.” That in itself might seem like a radical idea to some. In a story about how Vox’s editors and engineers built the site in a matter of weeks, Bell underscores what makes Vox so different from other journalism platforms: “if we wanted to build a digital startup journalism entity, we would behave like the technology company Vox Media truly is: launch fast and tweak often.” That’s what Vox, a repeat presenter at PubTech Connect, is all about: explaining the news and being present wherever web readers hang out. Bell, who started as a blogger at the Washington Post, grew into a techie, and at PTC, she’ll talk about how her passion for great journalism and innovative platforms has helped drive Vox to the forefront of online media.
Amanda Hesser, co-founder and CEO of Food52, is a legend in the world of food, and a bit of a techie as well. After working as a reporter and food editor at the New York Times (where she also authored the bestselling Essential New York Times Cookbook), she founded Food52 with Merrill Stubbs in 2009. Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, Hesser had always wanted to start a company, as she explains in this profile from Inc. Founding Food52 brought her passion for cooking and her startup bent together to create a social community and lifestyle brand that has spawned cookbooks, apps, and all kinds of other products. At PTC she’ll talk about how she cooked it up and what else she’s got cooking.
Anchor, founded in 2015, is a powerful platform that lets users create high-quality audio streams and podcasts right from their phones, easily integrating their voice with music and author audio from popular streaming platforms like Apple Music. Co-founder Michael Mignano started the platform after working at Atlantic records and then at the online photo editing company Aviary, which was acquired by Adobe. Anchor also lets users respond to other users’ streams with their own audio, creating the potential for conversations that go way beyond podcasting. Mignano told CNBC he believes Anchor has the potential to “help people democratize the voice medium” the way other apps have done for photos.
The idea behind the Thunderclap platform is pretty amazing: to enable anyone to use the power of social media to simultaneously share a message across the web at a particular moment. Basically, you create a campaign on Thunderclap, whose staff approves it, and then you start recruiting supporters, social media users who agree to share your message. Once you hit your supporter goal, your message gets automatically shared by everyone at a predetermined time. The White House has used it, as has the UN, who, with the help of Beyonce and Ridley Scott, spread a message about World Humanitarian Day to over a billion people, according to this article on Technical.ly about founder and CEO David Cascino. He started working on Thunderclap in 2011, after stints as a Salmon fisherman and a trader, and he’ll be at PTC to discuss what’s possible with Thunderclap and other innovative ways to harness the power of the internet.
With the help of moderator Lisa Chow, host of Gimlet’s Startup podcast, these four business innovators will discuss the business decisions that drive their companies, which in turn are driving people to consume and share new kinds of content.