#007 – Jessica Lessin, founder of The Information, shares how she built a thriving news business against the odds
Jessica Lessin was a star reporter at the Wall Street Journal who had built her reputation covering companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook. It was her dream job. Until one day… she quit.
In 2013, she launched her own publication to cover the technology industry, with a focus on scoops and deep reporting. The industry wasn’t exactly starving for outlets at the time – TechCrunch, All Things Digital, GigaOm, and VentureBeat were among the many already competing in the space – but Jessica’s new venture, The Information, had a point of difference: it asked readers to pay for subscriptions, to the tune of $400 a year.
What was she thinking?
At the time, the media dynamic on the web was pulling people towards “more surface-level, less original reporting, faster-turnaround fluff,” Jessica says in this episode of The Substack Podcast. She believed there was a better way.
“There was no way that the demand for quality and deeply reported stories – stories where you’re working multiple sources over very long periods of time – it was clear that demand for that information would go off the charts too, if there was enough of it.”
In the five years since, with Jessica at the helm as founder and Editor-in-Chief, The Information has established itself as one of the world’s leading tech news outlets, with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Hong Kong, and a couple dozen first-rate reporters. It is profitable, has more than 10,000 subscribers (though Jessica won’t disclose exactly how many), and recently started an accelerator to help other budding subscription media startups. At a time when the news business is in crisis, The Information has found an exciting way forward.
This interview is rich with insight and advice from one of the most knowledgeable media entrepreneurs in business today. I hope you’ll find it as worthwhile as I did.