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Every talks it out
Plus, several top news outlets are blocking OpenAI’s web crawler
Good morning! And welcome to Business Side. Today, we’re talking about the media company Every’s decision to spin out its AI writing app, Lex.
One of my favorite podcasts is called Talk Therapy. The show, which ran from June 2020 to July 2022, was a conversation between cofounders Nathan Baschez and Dan Shipper as they built their media company, Every. Some episodes focused on the mechanics of building a media business, while others tackled recent industry news. The best centered on Nathan and Dan’s relationship.
I couldn’t find the Talk Therapy archives online, but the show notes from episode #64 (“Do you respect me?”) give a good idea of the honest territory the podcast would sometimes tread:
Co-founder relationships require respect, but what happens when one co-founder falls down on the job? How do you manage around it without losing respect for each other? More importantly, how can you accept your own shortcomings without losing respect for yourself? It’s something that Dan and Nathan have struggled with before, and in this episode they take an unfiltered, clear-eyed look at the role respect plays in their relationship—and the times they’ve both felt small in each other’s eyes.
I miss episodes like this, mostly for the vulnerability Dan and Nathan showed in navigating their relationship in front of an audience. It’s one thing to “build in public;” it’s another to discuss the emotions (the fear! the shame!) inherent in creating something ambitious with another person.
I was reminded of Talk Therapy last week when I read the news that Every is spinning out its AI writing app Lex, which raised a $2.75 million seed round to operate and grow as a separate company. As part of the move, Dan will continue to run Every, and Nathan will run Lex as its CEO (while continuing to write occasionally for Every).
In one sense, it’s a story about the possibilities of the operator-led media model (Dan previously founded a software company, and Nathan worked in product at several media startups, including Substack). Operators often have unique insight to share, but many also have the ability and desire to create beyond the written word. In fact, as Dan Shipper wrote: “It turns out that writing an essay is a great MVP for a course or a software product. Refining your ideas through writing and bringing them to an audience week after week is a great way to know what to build and what will resonate.”
But the spin out of Lex is also a story about relationships. Research has shown that 65% of startups fail because of interpersonal tension among founders – and the prospect of a spin out would create tension among most founders. For Nathan and Dan at Every, the discussions were “hard” and “tortuous” because their “original plan had been to launch and run software products like Lex from inside of Every.”
But, like many of my favorite Talk Therapy episodes, these conversations also yielded understanding. In an essay published last week, Dan wrote about how the potential spin out helped solidify his love for running Every. It also became clear that “Lex had touched Nathan’s soul,” and “there’s nothing left for [Nathan] to do but put his whole self into it.” It’s a generous sentiment, one rarely found in posts announcing complicated company news.
In some ways, Every’s situation is unique. Most publishers aren’t still run by their founders, and few are incubating venture-scale software. But as AI looms, many publishers are navigating uncomfortable conversations with the potential to confuse and alienate staff, particularly in the newsroom. If handled thoughtfully, though, these discussions can help outlets better understand themselves and align around a clear path forward – even if it deviates from the original plan.
And here’s the latest news in digital media:
Several top news outlets are blocking OpenAI’s web crawler. The NYT, CNN, Reuters, the Chicago Tribune, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation are all blocking the GPTBot crawler, which scans webpages to improve OpenAI’s models.
Publisher referral traffic from X continues to drop. According to SimilarWeb data included in this Digiday post, global organic traffic from X in July fell year-over-year for BuzzFeed (-70%), Reuters (-67%), WaPo (-48%), WSJ (-42%), CNN (-41%), Fox News (-39%), NBC News (-38%), NYT (-35%), The Guardian (-29%), and the BBC (-20%).
LinkedIn added features to its Newsletter product, including a new design and the ability for one account to publish multiple newsletters. As part of the announcement, the company said there are 365 million newsletter subscriptions on the platform and more than 1.3 million daily readers. Separately, Bloomberg reported that LinkedIn users “shared 41% more content on the network [during spring of this year] than they did in the same period in 2021.”
More on publishers:
The Texas Tribune laid off 11 journalists, including the entire copy desk.
Futuro Media, a Latino-focused nonprofit, also announced layoffs.
A new study sheds light on the growing role of philanthropy in journalism.
Press Gazette ranked the most popular UK news apps.
Vice is leaving its iconic Brooklyn office.
ONA announced winners in the 2023 Online Journalism Awards.
The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund will invest $1 million in four local news “learning communities.”
More on platforms:
Spotify launched new tools for podcasters, including impression analytics and customized show pages.
YouTube Music is planning to let creators upload podcasts via RSS.
Threads rolled out its web app to all users.
Netflix won’t charge subscribers for unreturned DVDs after September 29th, when it’s shutting down its DVD-by-mail service.
Reddit launched a moderator rewards program.
Digiday published its guide to “what’s in and what’s out in social media platforms.”
More on cable:
Former NYT CEO Mark Thompson is a leading candidate to run CNN.
Warner Bros. Discovery is launching a CNN channel on its streaming service Max.
VC Andrew Chen’s post on how he uses AI when blogging.
Press Gazette interview with operators from The Mill, Axios, and Local News Now on lean models for local news.
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