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How to Do Business Journalism on the Internet and Actually Make Some Money (Video)

Different strokes for different folks.

Asa Mathat for Vox Media

Jessica Lessin’s The Information charges readers a hefty chunk of money ($399 a year or $39 a month) for access to top-tier tech journalism. Financial Times CEO John Ridding works for a respected financial newspaper with a strict paywall. LinkedIn Executive Editor Daniel Roth runs a digital platform powered by user-generated content.

Three different business news and media companies, and three distinct plans to make money. Who has it right?

At the Code/Media conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, Calif., the three explained to Re/code Senior Editor Peter Kafka that each one of them was doing the “right” thing, because they were doing what worked for them.

Though Lessin declined to share how many subscribers The Information has (“[Business Insider] guessed 2,000 and I said many multiples of that”), she said the company is “cash-flow positive” and that she wants to invest that cash back into the business.

“We want FT or Wall Street Journal scale,” Lessin said.

Financial Times boss Ridding said that the paywall and advertising revenue were only one part of the British newspaper’s strategy, highlighting the FT’s events business as part of a “multi-platform, multi-channel business model all based around premium content.”

“Once you’ve been through a couple financial crises … you think [advertising revenue] is no way to live,” Ridding said. “Competing for scale is really hard; you’re up against tech and media giants.”

Ridding also touched on last year’s sale of the Financial Times to the Japanese conglomerate Nikkei, which he said has been “pretty good.”

“What we didn’t have [under previous owner Pearson] was funding. We didn’t have a long-term investment, because the previous owners were prioritizing education,” Ridding said. “Nikkei believes, like us, that great journalism can be a great business. They’re investing in us, in product, in reach, in video and in data.”

Daniel Roth, LinkedIn’s top editor and formerly the managing editor of, operates a media unit that’s a little bit different from both Lessin’s and Ridding’s. LinkedIn runs on user-generated content from business leaders and #thinkfluencers who in turn get detailed data about the size and makeup of the audience reading their stuff.

Before he joined LinkedIn, Roth said that he “was struggling with the question of how to make the site better.”

“It seemed to me that the bet I was making was that a media company could become a tech company, but that the opposite might be a better bet — that a tech company figuring out the media game could be interesting,” Roth said.

As for how LinkedIn’s content division is handling the company’s recent collapse in share price?

“Most of the people I work with came from traditional media, and have only lived in downturns. … It was ‘Oh yeah, this seems normal,'” Roth replied. “[CEO Jeff Weiner] did an incredible job of explaining. … we’re the same company that we were yesterday.”

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