We are seeing a proliferation of media startups trying to innovate the news industry. But becoming the head honcho of these enterprises is sometimes a cryptic endeavour. Journalists who take to these roles will find it requires new and old skills. In this series, we talk to the CEOs of media startups of all sizes to demystify their job description and understand what they have learned in the role.
Sometimes, a brilliant idea can strike you in the walks of everyday life.
In 2006, Chase Palmieri was running Risibisi, an Italian restaurant and bar in California with his father. That was after graduating with a degree in entrepreneurship and small business management at a local state university. But he also had one foot in the media world, co-hosting a national radio show and podcast for Project Censored, a non-profit media watchdog.
As a restaurant co-owner, he had come to realise first-hand how platforms like Yelp and Google reviews were powerful players in helping local people decide where to - and where not to - eat. It also helped to keep local food and drink destinations accountable for their service and standards. That was when he realised there was no real equivalent platform in the media industry.
He had always planned to start a business after college, but needed the right project to sink the next decade of his life into. The lack of accountability in the news media was the lightning in the bottle he wanted to capture and in 2018, the news review platform Credder was launched. It is often dubbed the 'Rotten Tomatoes for news'.
If you have ever used review platforms, Credder works exactly as you expect. You set up a free account and then you start assigning news articles a star rating based on how credible you think it is, and there are a number of criteria to help. Users, journalists and news outlets all eventually build up a cumulative score rating.
As of now, Credder has seven people working for the business and the company is yet to generate revenue. However, it has been funded by over 15 angel investors in the form of convertible debt, which means that they will get some of the company's shares in the future.
It plans later this year to begin its B2B sales strategy by licensing Credder's credibility scores for every article, author, and outlet to third-party platforms such as social media, search engines, news aggregators, web browsers, and programmatic advertisers. Credder’s mission is to accelerate the news industry’s shift from clicks to credibility.
As CEO, Palmieri is in charge of fundraising, business strategy, product management, marketing and branding, sales, recruiting and hiring, corporate governance, and bookkeeping. He also hosts the Credder Podcast as a way to increase brand visibility. Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, he talks about what it takes to do his job. The interview has been lightly edited for brevity.
What sort of important decisions do you need to make regularly? And what is your decision-making process?
When making decisions, I look to cap the downside while maximising the upside. I also think about cost-effectiveness, acting on behalf of the company's stakeholders to ensure that every dollar spent is bringing in at least one dollar's worth of additional value to the overall business. I make spending, hiring, product roadmap, branding, marketing, pricing, and strategy decisions daily.
What are the key challenges with running a media startup and your specific business?
To try and escape the advertising-based revenue model that supports most media companies. An over-reliance on advertising creates broken incentive structures in online media. Credder’s biggest challenge at the moment is educating and selling its ratings data to third-party platforms, which is a product that has never existed for purchase until now and requires a lot of explanation and clear language as to the value it adds to the customer's platform.
We are solving this by talking to potential customers, using the tight feedback loop to iterate copy and design, and to identify customer profiles that have the greatest need and budget for our solution.
What are the key skills needed to do your job?
Leadership, team management, product management, strategy, creative problem solving, industry research, financial and corporate compliance, opportunism, positivity, dedication, patience, and a touch of naivety.
I work on these skills mostly by reading business books, listening to podcasts and interviews with entrepreneurs I admire, and the only real way to learn such skills: on the job.
What advice would you give media professionals who aspire to become CEOs of startups?
First, I think it is important to know yourself because not everyone has the mindset and range of skills necessary to be a CEO or startup founder. The lifestyle comes with enormous sacrifices, stress, chaotic ups and downs. The role has been glorified in this last decade, but 99 per cent of startups fail and those stories receive much less airtime in today's culture.
As for advice, make sure you honestly believe that you would be happy sinking the next ten years of your life into this company without any salary or recognition. If yes, and you can fall in love with the process (not the outcome), then my next piece of advice is to ask yourself how the company could be structured to make money on day one. It might not be possible, but it is an important exercise to focus your model on becoming a business and not a project because revenue equals sustainability.
On that note, how do you deal with stress?
I used to be much worse at dealing with the stress. At one point, I was working three jobs (one of which was Credder) and was starting to lose my hair as a 25-year-old. When we raised Credder's Angel Round in 2019, I was able to stop working the other two jobs and focus solely on Credder. That was a huge mental and physical relief, but simultaneously came with the added stress that comes with taking money from investors who have big expectations.
The most effective way I have found to destress is to actually get the work done. That might sound like a cop-out, but it really is the most effective way for me. The stress I experience usually comes when there is something that I know needs to get done. Luckily, the amount of work that needs to get done is more manageable now that the company is more mature.
I would recommend stressed founders push through the work and rest easier knowing the tasks at hand are done. Tomorrow there will be another long list of tasks to get done but that is the life of a startup founder and you cannot really push those tasks out of your mind until they are dealt with.
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