‘The people who I have found to be the sharpest and most interesting are people who have moved around a lot … Conversely the people who have been the worst to work with are people who went to one place and stayed there. I think you take a job to learn something from that job, and as soon as you’ve learned, then it is time to move on.’
— Jason Feifer,
Editor in chief,
Entrepreneurial speaker advocates
changing jobs and embracing change
By Jess DeWitt
In a landscape that is constantly changing, the news industry can’t rely on a single business model, according to entrepreneur Jason Feifer.
Feifer will be speaking at the upcoming New England Newspaper and Press Association winter convention. He is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, based in Irvine, Calif., and host of the podcasts “Pessimists Archive” and “Problem Solvers.” He co-wrote a book, “Mr. Nice Guy,” with his wife that will be coming out this year.
Feifer plans to stress as the theme of his speech the importance of embracing change in the industry.
“I don’t propose to be the person who has all the answers,” Feifer said. “What I am is fortunate to have had a career in journalism which has immersed me in the challenges of this industry, and then to go and cover entrepreneurs who operate in an extremely freeing but very rigorous mindset. That has taught me to think in a particular way, and has taught me to embrace change in a way.”
Feifer has embraced change in his career in the news media that has spanned more than 15 years. Feifer said he has never stayed at a job for more than three-and-a-half years, and has worked for publications that include Boston Magazine, Men’s Health and Maxim, and others. In that time, he has learned many new skills, such as using video and social media, and podcasting.
“We are going to have to be constantly evolving, constantly changing, constantly watching and listening to people, and seeing where they are and where we can go to them,” Feifer said.
“What I see in media is largely an instinct to double down on what used to work, instead of figuring out what will work in the future, and that when a new or slightly new thing is hit upon, everyone goes all in on it,” Feifer said.
Pivoting to video is an example Feifer used to explain that concept. Pivoting to video is a mindset in the news industry that video was the way of the future, a mindset he thinks is a mistake.
“Publications like Mashable and Rolling Stone.com, that have seen video as the future and have decided to go all in on video and laid off most, if not all, of their writing staff, and have built a new team devoted entirely to video,” he said.
Feifer said the reason publications gravitated to news videos is because CPMs, or cost per thousand, on videos are high. CPMs are the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions on one webpage. If the publisher of a webpage charges a $3 CPM, then an advertiser must pay $3 for every 1,000 impressions of its advertisement on the webpage.
“The problem here is that most people are not actually watching those videos,” Feifer said. “Those viewer counts are coming from auto-play.”
Feifer said auto-play occurs when someone scrolls down on Facebook, or any other site, and a news or ad video plays automatically without sound, and often only plays for a few seconds before the viewer continues to scroll down. Even though the viewer barely watched the video, it still counts as a view. He said advertisers and news outlets are picking up on that, realizing that videos are not as effective as they originally thought, prompting them to think of new ways to reach their audience.
According to comScore, publishers that pivoted to video in the summer of 2016 saw a 60 percent drop in traffic compared to the previous year.
He mentioned a friend of his who is editor in chief of a magazine that is reaching eight million viewers a month through Snapchat, making it the magazine’s largest audience base.
“She would be a fool to think that she’s figured it out, and for the next 10 years is going to be riding Snapchat,” Feifer said. “That’s not it. It just means that it’s working now, which is great because she figured out how to move into that, but she will be dead if she relied on that for too long.”
Feifer discussed the concept of adapting to a changing industry on “Pessimists Archive,” where he recently talked about the bicycle.
“When the bicycle was introduced it was roundly mocked,” Feifer said. “It was assaulted as dangerous to morality, dangerous to community, dangerous to health, and it was also roundly attacked by people in industries that were being impacted by the bicycle.”
One of the industries being negatively affected by the bicycle was the hat industry. The more people who were buying bicycles, the fewer were buying nice hats, because they were buying bicycle caps instead. So in the early-1900s, a man in the hat industry proposed that anyone who buys a bicycle would have to buy two nice hats or, as Feifer said, “forcing people to compensate him for simply changing their consumption.”
“That guy is a newspaper that refuses to change,” Feifer said. “Because that guy is going to go out of business, and the newspaper is going to go out of business, because you can’t expect people to pause time because you don’t want to evolve. The only thing that will happen if you try to stop time is that everyone else will move, and you will stay still.”
Feifer’s positive experiences with embracing change have led him to seek out others with similar outlooks. When hiring, he is more interested in applicants with an eclectic skillset than he is in applicants with a long history at one news outlet.
“The people who I have found to be the sharpest and most interesting are people who have moved around a lot. I think that people should do that,” Feifer said. “Conversely the people who have been the worst to work with are people who went to one place and stayed there. I think you take a job to learn something from that job, and as soon as you’ve learned, then it is time to move on.”
Feifer will be the opening session speaker Friday, Feb. 23, at the New England Newspaper and Press Association winter convention. It is being held Feb.23 and 24 in the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel in South Boston.