Bari Weiss reveals marketing strategy for buzzy new media startup

The Free Press co-founder and CEO Bari Weiss (proper) seated subsequent to social media producer Lucy Biggers on Thursday, December 8, 2022 throughout the firm’s launch. Picture credit score: Andy Mills

Bari Weiss, the New York Occasions columnist turned unbiased publication author, has employed ten full-time workers and over a dozen contractors to assist construct her new media firm, The Free Press, Weiss advised Axios in an interview.

Why it issues: The success of Weiss’ Substack publication and podcast, each of which she launched final yr after leaving The New York Occasions, exhibits there’s an urge for food for protection that is meant to rebuke conventional media merchandise.

  • “I am responding to a requirement, and I am increasing primarily based on the starvation of the viewers. And that starvation and urge for food is simply big. We’re on the very, very starting of what this may very well be,” Weiss stated.

Driving the information: Weiss launched The Free Press final Thursday, 4 days forward of schedule, to capitalize on the media protection round her “Twitter Information” reporting.

  • In lower than per week, The Free Press has accrued greater than 105,000 followers on Twitter and its flagship publication has added a further 25,000 free and paid subscribers.
  • Weiss’ Twitter following itself has exploded in that point, rising from greater than 500,000 followers to greater than 900,000 in lower than per week.

Weiss and her spouse, Nellie Bowles, a co-founder of The Free Press”and former New York Occasions correspondent, have wasted no time supercharging development.

  • The corporate has already begun its first paid advertising and marketing marketing campaign, which incorporates digital promoting and posters in cities similar to Los Angeles, New York Metropolis and shortly Austin and San Fransisco. “Up till now, we’ve not spent a penny,” Weiss stated.
Picture of paid promotional posters for The Free Press in New York Metropolis. Picture courtesy of The Free Press.

Catch up fast: Weiss left The New York Occasions as an op-ed columnist in July 2020, arguing she had change into a sufferer of “a ‘new McCarthyism’ that has taken root on the paper of report.” Bowles left The Occasions shortly after in 2021.

  • The pair created The Free Press from their kitchen desk in Los Angeles.

By the numbers: In January of 2021, Weiss launched Frequent Sense, a publication on Substack that is since amassed over 283,000 free and paid subscribers. (Frequent Sense has now been rebranded as The Free Press.)

  • Weiss stated her subscriber quantity has greater than doubled because the starting of the yr, to 283,000, she stated.
  • Earlier this yr, Weiss and Bowles raised a small household and buddies funding spherical for The Free Press. Weiss declined to share how a lot was raised.
  • Previous to that, the duo relied on subscription income from Weiss’ publication, which prices $5 month-to-month. (It now prices $8 month-to-month below The Free Press umbrella.)
  • Final yr, Marketwatch reported that Weiss revamped $800,000 from her publication alone, which on the time had 14,000 paid subscribers. The publication has greater than double that variety of paid subscribers as we speak.

Of observe: Weiss’ publication and different Free Press e-mail newsletters will proceed to be despatched utilizing Substack, which additionally offered technical help for The Free Press web site.

Particulars: Trying forward, Weiss plans to launch a slate of newsletters and podcasts to accompany her personal, all below the umbrella of The Free Press.

  • She’s employed a number of podcast producers, together with Andy Mills, previously a producer for The New York Occasions’ flagship podcast “The Every day.” Extra audio collection shall be coming within the new yr, together with a attainable podcast debate present and long-form podcasts that may really feel extra like documentaries, she stated.

  • Weiss has already begun to rent full-time writers, together with Olivia Reingold, who will cowl politics and tradition, and Rupa Subramanya.
  • These writers will be part of The Free Press’ current slate of journalists, which incorporates Bowles, in addition to Peter Savodnik, Emily Yoffe and Suzy Weiss of The New York Publish.
  • A number of different unbiased writers, together with Katherine Boyle, a basic associate at Andreessen Horowitz, and writer and Substack author Michael Shellenberger, are becoming a member of as common columnists.
  • Along with newsletters and podcasts, Weiss stated The Free Press plans to launch extra merchandise for paid subscribers particularly, similar to subscriber-only occasions and dialogue threads.
  • Subscribers, Weiss stated, will proceed to be “on the coronary heart of our enterprise,” though Weiss stated she’s open to exploring different types of income like promoting and occasion sponsorships.

Between the traces: The Free Press joins a slew of stories startups, together with Semafor, Puck and Airmail, which have launched lately as digital updates of the type of well timed, scoopy, voice-driven protection that print used to offer.

  • The Free Press’ web site is supposed to resemble old school broadsheet newspapers, Weiss stated, and a bygone period of sincere, dogged reporting.

The massive image: Weiss, alongside different unbiased writers like Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald, are gaining newfound consideration with Elon Musk’s possession of Twitter.

  • “I believe there’s lots of people on this nation who’re politically homeless, who really feel just like the previous labels — Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal — now not match them or now not imply what they used to,” Weiss stated.

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