With so many traditional media outlets rethinking, restructuring and working to re-invent their businesses, the opportunity for challengers has never been greater. Sharon Waxman saw this coming a while back and capitalized on it with great success. Previously well-known as the Hollywood correspondent for The New York Times, Waxman is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author of two books, Rebels on the Backlot and Loot. Now she is leveraging her deep experience and know-power as Founder & Editor-in-Chief of TheWrap.com, her news organization and online destination covering the business of entertainment and media.
Given the number of experts looking to apply knowledge, as digital entrepreneurs I thought it would be great to check in with Sharon and get her perspective.
Why did you launch this business?
There is no other news source out there that delivers the most important stories affecting the business of Hollywood, media, entertainment, and by extension, pop culture. There was a real gap in the media landscape, and a clear desire by the community in Hollywood to have a digital age, cutting edge news source. We wanted to deliver a combination of deep access original reporting, smart analysis and lively commentary - given to our readers as quickly as possible and in the most compelling manner possible.
On several occasions you’ve scooped the famed Hollywood trades Variety and the Hollywood Reporter…are they your main competitors?
The traditional trades are not in the business of breaking news. We are. They do not have a culture of independence from the studios, and have fallen too far behind in giving core readers the kind of sophisticated coverage they need to do their business. That said, there is a lot of talent at the trades that we are delighted to have hired, and let loose to do their best work. We are also an investigative news site delivering in-depth stories and boast a masthead of well-respected senior staff including Lew Harris, founding Editor-in-Chief of E! Online and Kevin Davis formerly General Manager of Variety.com. Along with our roster of top-quality journalists, TheWrap hosts many well-respected Hollywood insiders who blog at the site giving our audience in-depth analysis, which is what they are looking for and that those other sites don’t deliver.
How do audiences change when you take information to the web?
With the digital revolution, consumers have quickly adapted to this change. Our audience is looking for breaking stories that you’ll only find online as it’s the fastest way to get news out there. If anything, our audience is only growing because we are a web-based news organization and a one-stop destination to find the best and most reliable entertainment and media news.
Is all B2B media experiencing this big shift?
If all B2B media are not experiencing this big shift, they soon will be. There is no doubt that everyone needs to adapt, and quickly, to this change.
What advice would you give the entrepreneur looking to exploit this trend?
Everyone is still learning when it comes to the Internet. Some people want to be the first, some people want to be right. Ideally, you can get to a point where you accomplish both things. I’m still learning too.
You’ve been incredibly successful as a journalist and corporate citizen. What have you had to learn to succeed as an entrepreneur?
I had to learn to think faster, anticipate things earlier and use money as efficiently as possible. In addition, I also had to be careful about choosing the people I hired to work with me. Personnel management is a whole new skill set for me.
What advice would you give to other journalists looking to step into the CEO seat?
I think it’s a given that it’s not easy to start your own company. It takes time, energy, ideas and finding the right resources to accomplish your goals. It’s also about timing and staying in tune with what’s going on around you. I also think it’s crucial to find great people to work with and count on. I’m very lucky to have a team of smart, resourceful people working at TheWrap.
Finally...we’d be remiss without asking you about Hollywood. How dramatically is it changing and does it present more opportunity today than yesterday?
Hollywood is changing dramatically as studios continue to adapt to the digital shift. The big puzzle now is trying to monetize the Internet and no one has cracked that nut yet. As to whether it presents more opportunity today than yesterday, I think smart people can always find opportunities.