Digiday Podcast: Redef’s Jason Hirschhorn on building a media brand
Jason Hirschhorn doesn’t get much sleep. The CEO and chief curator of Redef, Hirschhorn has built an impassioned, influential following around his daily newsletter, which curates the big stories in media and technology.
While the effort has been largely a labor of love for the better part of the last decade, Hirschhorn is now taking a stab at making Redef a sustaining business. He raised $2 million in seed funding last year, which he’s used to hire curators and developers. He said the plan is to push Redef as a subscription product for both individuals and companies. He’s also considering pushing into events.
“We’re not big, but we’re very influential. We’re not going to have 100 million people read us because 100 million people aren’t interested in the stuff we’re writing about,” he said.
Hirschhorn recently joined the Digiday Podcast to discuss what it takes to build a sustainable media brand. Here are some highlights of the half-hour chat, lightly edited.
Tech, media and fashion aren’t that different.
Tech and fashion seem like two different beasts at first glance, but Hirschhorn says the two are not only going through similar shifts, but converging as well. With Beats headphones or the Apple Watch, the line between tech and fashion continues to blur.
“Our fashion coverage isn’t about the clothes, but rather the people behind the industry and the technologies that are affecting it. They’re all colliding.”
Great writing is increasingly coming from nontraditional sources
While Redef curates the bulk of its content from the likes of The New York Times, an increasing share of the content it links to is coming from a wider diversity of writers, particularly via platforms such as Medium.
“For the most part, it’s good quality writing and ideas from people who aren’t necessarily writing for a living,” he said of the platform. “I loved being able to put someone from Medium, who is not a ‘professional,’ right next to stuff from David Carr, who is the consummate professional.”
“Curation” isn’t a dirty word
Talk about the unbundling of television and Web content is all the rage these days. The narrative is that people would rather have choice and control instead of a single cable package or news source. But Hirschhorn isn’t convinced the bundle is dead.
“No matter what you hear, the joke of all this stuff, especially in TV, is that it’s all going to be rebundled anyway,” he said. “The user doesn’t want to take the time to have fifty different billing relationships. They would like some of the programming done for them.”
Redef is slowly crossing the curate-create divide, and could become a platform
Redef for most of its history has been about linking to other people’s work, not creating its own. “I was very against getting into the content business, because the whole point of curation was, ‘It’s been created, so we go find it for you,’” Hirschhorn said. That’s slowly changing. Over the past few months, the site has commissioned a series of original articles covering topics such as the divide between HBO and Netflix, the future of television and the growing power of eSports. Hirschhorn said he’s also considered opening up the Redef platform to third-party contributors.
“I don’t know if that’s where we will go, but it’s certainly not our focus this minute,” he said. “Whether it becomes a platform or we commission articles from our audience on certain topics, I don’t know. It’s not something that I’ve taken a deep dive into yet.”
Hirschhorn knows he’ll never read everything
The flood of content created by the Web seems to increase exponentially every day. And while that may put pressure on Redef’s curators to keep on top of everything, Hirschhorn has found solace in the fact that he won’t.
“I’ve sat down with my team and said, your feeds are never going to be empty,” he said. You have to be able to live with that. We have to constantly remind ourselves that we’re never going to finish.”
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