Top Podcasts of the Week – March 18-24

Here are some of my favorite podcasts from this week.

1. Uber Chief Brand Officer Bozoma Saint John and Daymond John have a nice conversation about Bozoma’s origin story, her approach to work, diversity in the corporate world, among other topics.

Takeaway: Believe that you are attracting good outcomes, and act accordingly.

2. LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman has a great conversation with Spanx founder Sara Blakely about how she got her big idea for Spanx.

Takeaway: Keep going.

3. My quest to scour the earth for every bit of information I can get my hands on about Axios’ business continues. Axios CEO Jim VandeHei (pictured above) provides a lot of helpful information in this conversation with Digiday

Takeaway: “Don’t ever tether your business to the benevolence of another company.”

What were some of your favorite podcasts from the past week?

Building a Diverse Newsroom

This tweet exposed the work Axios has to do to improve the diversity of its news room. It was jarring to see how few people of color the startup had working there at the time. Alexi McCammond, one of their top reporters, wasn’t in the shot, but that’s not much help.

If you click into the tweet, you’ll see folks going in on the lack of diversity at the startup. So, I was glad to see Axios partner with Howard to host one of their excellent Axios360 events. They recently hired a black journalist and I look forward to them making a concerted effort to adding more underrepresented journalists – of which I imagine this event is part of the strategy.

Building a newsroom is one of the things I’m most excited about in building CultureBanx. It’s been fantastic having Kori on board and I’ve got my eye on some other really talented business journalists. If we can execute on the vision for this thing, I’ll be able to recruit one of the most special news rooms out there.

Who are your favorite black business journalists?

Advertising vs. Subscriptions

In a world where advertising rules everything around me, how do I keep CultureBanx’s subscribers front and center while growing this business?

Financial news streaming startup, Cheddar, announced yesterday that they raised $22 million. As part of the announcement, they declared that they are doing away with paid subscriptions. My mind went back to their constant stream of infomercially Instagram posts. That’s one of their revenue streams. If you see anything close to that from CultureBanx, please throw something at me!

I want CultureBanx to resonate with what our readers want, even as we push forward on our planned revenue streams. Late last week, I heard a publisher state that a media business has to decide between paid subscriptions and advertising. You can’t do both well. I think the New York Times would beg to differ. I mean, they did $1B in paid subscription revenue last year, and they still advertise.

I want CultureBanx to reach black professionals around the world. I’m not convinced paid subscriptions is the way to accomplish that. But I love the concept of subscriptions focusing us on delivering for our readers. We’ve got a handful of paid subscribers we’re testing this with, and I think about them all the time. I email, text, call them to be sure the content is resonating.

Contrast that with an advertising partnership we’re working on. Our potential partner has some great ideas for content they’d like to share with our readership. I’ve got to be conscious to keep what I know of my readers wants in mind while shaping the partnership, but ultimately this potential partner is writing the check.

Now, expand that if we place display ads on CultureBanx’s website, allowing another company to place ads with us. While we would have some control there, I’ve seen some pretty troubling ads on reputable media companies’ sites. I don’t want that near us and I’ve got remain focused on our readers even when the advertising money looks tempting. At the same time, I want CultureBanx to reach a lot of professionals as quickly as possible.

Clearly, I’m still working through this in my head and conversations with readers and other entrepreneurs. I look forward to figuring it out!

What’s Your Oath?

I initially rolled my eyes at this question during the latest KindredCast episode with Oath CEO Tim Armstrong, but Armstrong and KindredCast host Aryeh Bourkoff both had really interesting answers to the question.

KindredCast is a podcast hosted by the CEO of Liontree, a boutique investment bank that does some of the biggest deals in the media, technology, and telecommunications space. I’ve learned a ton about the industry listening to the podcast. Perhaps Aryeh will help CultureBanx with an acquisition one day. 😉

Anyway, Armstrong’s oath is Never Give Up, and Bourkoff’s is Jump the Rope. You can hear their explanations at 2:53 in the episode.

What would you say your oath is? For the past several months, I’ve repeated two things to myself almost daily: “Kwame, you are enough. Bet on yourself.”

The oath part of that statement, “Bet on yourself,” has helped me a lot. Over the years, I had developed a bad practice of discounting myself. I’ve often looked at job descriptions and seen the phrase, “strong academic performance,” and cowered at the thought of my 2.25 GPA at Davidson.

The reminder to bet on myself has kept me from forgetting the value I’ve added over the course of my career, drawn me back from toeing the line of self-sabotage, and going for what I know. It’s a daily battle, but one for which I am grateful. Without it, I wouldn’t bring the vantage point and skillset I’ve developed to the table.

What’s your oath? Where does it come from?

What’s Your Company’s Belief System?

As I’ve spent the past year studying whatever I can get my hands on to get insights on the business of media the past year, I’ve come across some fantastic podcasts. The Adlandia podcast is one of them. Their latest episode with Ross Martin, CEO of Blackbird, had a lot of gems. The one that has been rolling around in my head is how to think about my next company’s belief system.

Belief System Framework

What is Big, Simple, Useful, and True about your company’s role in the marketplace, society, etc?

Here’s a link to the interview.

Thinking About Ads Differently. Indexing Diversity.

Thinking about Ads Differently

One of the latent questions I’ve had about the tech industry is the seemingly unchecked dominance of advertising in tech company business models. Google. Facebook. Snap. Advertising is practically the sole driver of their businesses. Aren’t there more creative revenue streams for their businesses?

Benedict Evans turned that question on his head when he posted the above tweet. In the ensuing debate on the topic, Cindy Gallop posted a link to a fantastic keynote she gave at the 3% Conference, first addressing sexual harassment, then providing principles for how the tech industry should the opportunity to do good with advertising rather than seeing it as a necessary evil.

Indexing Diversity

Much has been written about how diverse management teams improve the performance of companies. Imagine being able to trade a public company’s stock based in part on an index reflecting the impact of the company’s workforce diversity on various performance metrics. ESG-focused investors include diversity in their models, but I’m sure there is a way to be more granular in analyzing this.

Over the past few years, more companies are releasing high level data on their diversity numbers. Ideally, this index would be based on granular data giving weight to where in the company employees sit. Gathering that data would be tough. LinkedIn is stingy with its API, but perhaps Jeff Weiner could be convinced or that information could be triangulated through geolocation, Twitter/Instagram bios, etc.

We live in a world where people of color are claiming more and more of their impact on the global economy. Adding this layer to how we invest in companies would be powerful in checking companies not founded/run by people of color or women who are not serious about diversity within their companies.


Bob Johnson on Building BET

This is a fascinating conversation between Guy Raz and Bob Johnson. I had no idea he was a policy guy who then got into lobbying. His work at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association opened his eyes to the opportunity in cable TV, a nascent idea that hadn’t yet caught up with broadcast television.

The clearest thing that comes across in the interview is Johnson’s confidence – he seems to lack none, but I’m curious what he’s been like at his low points.