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The types of stories she’s writing now for Linked In, she explained, are similar to what she was doing by the end of her tenure at Wired: “ideas-driven pieces about the nature of how technology companies are changing.” Most of those 50 editors are not writing stories like Hempel is, or working on her podcast, . So, instead of influence being something that happened from the top down, it would happen sideways and from the bottom-up. Like Fortune, which was where I spent a good deal of my professional career... Fortune Magazine, and really, I mean, I think Fortune is really where I learned the craft, was a place that existed because people had confidence in the brand, right? He’s always really understood content and understood news in particular and believed in it. I mean, my work hopefully helps the people on Linked In get smarter about their work.Instead, they’re summarizing big news stories and surfacing public discussions among people who are affected or interested by that news; for example, Hempel said, Linked In provided a unique window into the substantial layoffs at Space X earlier this year. Right, both the readers, advertisers, and then the people you’re writing about, right? I think that Linked In believed that news has the ability to make professionals smarter and, more important, to get them talking to each other across boundaries and borders around who you know and who you don’t, around things that matter to them in their professional lives. I don’t think that I probably need to tell you, as somebody who works in media, that user-generated content is great, but it is not as great as carefully crafted content by somebody who has studied the field for, in my case, 17 years. Which is bigger than any other media business and almost all that content is created by people for free.“I remember, that was the one that I was like, ‘Oh, this is amazing,’” she said. People who are looking to hire people who have been laid off. CEOs of Apple or Microsoft or whomever, don’t give interviews, generally, to someone working in their parents’ basement, but they give them to someone working at Fortune. And they might care about the individual writer they’re talking to, but they also care that it’s Fortune Magazine. I think, though, that we have been dealing with the tremblings of the examination of, “Well, what if that’s not true? Blogging came along, and suddenly, “oh no, how crazy, somebody could be in their basement, in their pajamas, writing, and they could have the same size microphone as Fortune.” And of course, we know that’s not really true, because Fortune also had the brand, and so it gave it credibility. I knew who they were — not Bill Gates, but Bill Gates’s PR person, for example, and I had a very deep relationship. I mean, I got to know and report about, like, Mark Zuckerberg very early. And Forbes was you, and Fortune was me, but kind of it was all the same. And frankly, I just remember my mother saying to me — I worked for Businessweek for a long time — and she said to me, “You know, Jessi, I look through every page of Newsweek and I never see you. ” And then I went to Fortune, and it was the same thing. I believe that, but there’s lots of evidence to the contrary, right? Sure, and we have a lot of members creating a lot of content for free.“You have six or seven conversations that have been tacked to it that include people who have been laid off and the experience there. “You get the smattering of first-person sources that I, as a journalist in my career, would have to go out and search for actively,” Hempel added. And there were, like, oh, Bill Gates is giving an interview to Gizmodo, back when Gizmodo was kind of a scrappy blog. There were bits of that coming up, and then there was also this idea that the audience, whoever the audience was, right? The audience was, in part, the people we were writing about. But the audience-audience, the millions of people for whom Fortune arrived in the mail, who read it, I knew very little about. Maybe, when I went home over Christmas, my dad’s friend talked about something I’d read, but that was kind of the extent of it. “Mom, I got bad news for you, it’s never going to work.” Yeah, she was like, “Jessi, I look through Forbes, every page, you’re never there.” Yeah, so, totally true. He’d really designed this tech publication on the premise that long-form journalism could exist on Medium. I mean, I think that the thing that you have to keep coming back to is, we want content that makes professionals smarter at their jobs, that is useful to them, right? I did a lot of quick, fast stuff, and you would do deep, thoughtful, insightful, long pieces. But I think that the reason why I was able to make a career out of it was not because I had some crazy talent. Then Condé Nast didn’t continue to support Backchannel, which is no mystery, and so the Backchannel team went back to Wired, which was a great home for us. Yep, round trip back to Wired, and that was under Nick Thompson, and Nick Thompson is like an incredible intellect and a wonderful editor. They want people to spend time on Linked In and they want you to generate stuff that will bring people to Linked In and help them stay in Linked In because they’re interested in it.
What everyone says they want to do, you actually did. Actually, I think everyone comes out of journalism school saying, “I’m going to write a National Magazine Award-winning piece for the New Yorker.” Yeah. So, I would say this about myself, I’m a writer who loves writing, and is a fine enough writer. Like, you practice it and you practice it and you practice it and you get better at it. I think it is both because I practice so hard and because I think it was a product of my curiosity, the thing that I was curious about, and as a result, my ability to listen. I think what you’re asking — and stop me if I’m wrong on this — but I think what you’re asking to some degree is why does Linked In care about paying people to create original content for the platform? You can go even further back, why do they care about ...Below, we’ve shared a lightly edited full transcript of Peter’s conversation with Jessi. There are a handful of people who do what I am doing, which is really content creation. And that is, it arrives every day for Linked In members, and it is a summary of the day’s news and each piece of news has a collection of conversation that’s happening on the site.Peter Kafka: This is Recode Media with Peter Kafka, that is me. I have a very special guest here today, my old friend, Jessi Hempel, who I think of as one of my favorite writers. I, being a news junkie living in New York City and having a million outlets for my news, never looked at this before I got to Linked In. People who are looking to hire people who have been laid off. I think when I went from Businessweek to Fortune, my approach to stories changed slightly, based on the slight difference in readers between Businessweek and Fortune.“We’ve just circled them all up for you and said, ‘You’re interested in this? And they might also say, “How’s it going at Forbes? But I think that, you know, so when I got to Condé Nast and I got to Wired — and I was a writer at Wired, maybe a year and a half into my tenure there — Condé Nast bought a Medium property called Backchannel and I went over to help run Backchannel with Steven Levy. Yeah, and Steve Levy is, like, the most wonderful guy. And he’s one of the lions of tech writing and had done amazing books, insanely great, is still one of the great Apple books, had done, and would do these big, heavy, you know, I am going to bring you inside Google, or pick your giant thing. The perfect combination of that, we believe, is user-generated content and editorial content. But, a lot of what editors are doing is contributing to something that we have called the Daily Rundown.You can go directly and talk to these people about it.’” wherever you get your podcasts — including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and Overcast. You kind of have to say that, because I’m currently the writer in the room with you. By the way, our editors, I think this is maybe the important piece here: Our editors are not, for the most part, doing what I’m doing. The Daily Rundown happens in seven different languages in 11 different markets.
This is the last version of this nerdy audience question, but so if ... I’m assuming that you have to think about, how do I reach a reader who wasn’t expecting to read me? I wanted to point out something that I just noticed because I’ve covered tech in the Valley for two decades, which is, from the beginning of the Web 2.0 era, there was this moment when suddenly these youngsters with laptops could, like they had never been able to before, start these mostly social services and VCs wanted into those companies so badly. If you got shut out of Facebook, you were in trouble. What that meant was that sometimes VCs would make these really terrible deals. And let’s not even use the word “a Sheryl,” like, you need somebody to be a No. Or whatever it’s going to take to help the company succeed. And your power in doing that is a soft power, because you don’t have a lot of other types of powers, and you have to be able to exert that soft power well, and that is who Sheryl was. we want to get over this idea, is the idea to fund companies that have fully baked leaders running them? Well, and once a company has become large enough that it is the size and scale of many of the tech companies that I’ve written about in the industry, is it appropriate that we can’t fire those people if they’re ...