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April 25, 2017, 8:07 a.m.
Business Models

This is a news publication all about the working life — but it’s housed within a job search company

14-year-old online job search company Ladders has hired journalists to bolster and burnish its editorial operation, which will try to cover everything from policy to pop culture (as it relates to work, of course).

As news publishers search for sustainability, some companies with established business models are in search of publications to call their own. Anheuser-Busch has one around beer. Two popular shaving product companies each run one. Airbnb had Pineapple magazine, but published one issue in 2014.

Now, 14-year-old online job search platform and service Ladders has hired a slate of journalists to bolster and burnish its editorial operations. The Ladders publication will be helmed by Heidi Moore, who was among the journalists laid off from Mashable last year when it pivoted away from certain types of news (mainly, lots of hard news).

Moore, a longtime business reporter who’s worked at The Guardian U.S. and the Wall Street Journal, said that while many news organizations — and even adjacent companies like LinkedIn — publish career advice columns or workplace or labor-related journalism, she felt the work and workplace beat has so far been inadequately considered.

People work a lot (and when they’re not working, they’re maybe stressing about what they need to get done at work): “But for something that takes up a vast amount of time, it’s still written about in a minimal way, with minimal formats — either in the form of career advice, or an expansive macro-economics, labor market kind of view,” Moore said. “There’s a big middle that isn’t being served.”

Ladders has been publishing quietly for the past month, and the selection of stories currently on the site gives a sense of how widely it wants to extend. There’s typical work advice (“What to do when you feel left out of the office ‘tribe‘”), there’s the pop culture take (“Starbucks barista rebels against making Unicorn Frappuccinos all day“), there are breaking news stories, there’s the let’s-get-in-on-this-potential-viral-video post, there are reported features.

Also on the table for coverage are newsy policy stories such as the state of H1B visas, the gender pay gap, the gig economy, and automation, as well as management studies and workforce research more along the lines of what a Harvard Business Review might cover, according to Moore and Ladders editorial director Ryan Sager. The site will run around seven to 12 pieces per day.

“A company like [Ladders] should be in contact with its users every day, not every four years when someone is looking for a new job again,” Sager said.

Moore and Sager are already working on a ten-person team (Steph Haberman is the latest to join, as an audience development manager). It has a staffer on board dedicated to social video, as well as an art director (who also makes original illustrations to accompany its pieces).

I confess I’d never heard of Ladders until now, though its weekly newsletter — mostly centered around stuff like career advice — already gets into the inboxes of almost 10 million people, according to a spokesperson. With the official launch of its news publication, Moore and her team are taking over the newsletter as well, giving the publication a giant built-in audience, many affluent, and already half between ages 25 to 34, according to comScore.

While Ladders currently serves a pretty “high-end” audience (their descriptor, not mine), Moore and Sager have said they hope they’ll publish stories that appeal to all age ranges, from “Gen-Z” to millennial to boomer, and articles will be distributed across all the expected platforms like Facebook’s Instant Articles and Apple News.

It may begin to look at monetization options like advertising, but there’s no particular timeline for profitability: “We want to see how big this audience can get, and we’ll learn from the audience what they’re interested in,” Sager said. Moore compared the company to Bloomberg, with the terminals bringing in money and news being a valuable addition for terminal customers.

Marc Cenedella [the CEO] is a big media enthusiast who thinks deeply about the historical origins of newspapers in America. He has a 19th-century newspaper model, but where he has the classifieds and no news,” Sager said. “This is an interesting way to think about how a media company can be funded in this day and age.”

Original illustration by Ashley Siebels, Ladders editorial designer, used with permission.

POSTED     April 25, 2017, 8:07 a.m.
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