Jay Yarow, the senior vice president and executive editor at CNBC’s digital operations, has made the business news network’s website a player in business journalism.
In January 2016, the month before Yarow’s hiring was announced, CNBC.com had 27 million unique visitors, making it the No. 6 business news website, according to comScore.
Yarow started in March 2016 and reorganized the digital newsroom, built out the website’s key verticals such as technology, and broadened its general money coverage by growing the Make It content. He also pushed an emphasis on using social media and more video. And he expanded the newsroom by hiring more reporters and editors at a time when many news organizations are cutting staff.
The result: In September, CNBC.com reached the No. 3 position among business news websites for the first time ever with 49.2 million unique visitors, up 74 percent from the same time a year ago.
CNBC.com’s year-over-year growth is faster than a number of the top news sites including CNN.com, NYTimes.com, WashingtonPost.com, BuzzFeed.com and BusinessInsider.com.
And that’s why Yarow has been selected as the Talking Biz News Business Journalist of the Year for 2017.
“Jay Yarow’s unique personal skill set combines curiosity, passion, journalistic enterprise and execution,” said CNBC chairman Mark Hoffman. “He knows a great story and how to weaponize it in today’s complex media environment. The numbers don’t lie. CNBC’s digital products and services have made profound gains under Jay’s leadership, delivering a substantially scaled, high-quality user base.”
Yarow beat out other top business journalists considered for the award, including Washington Post business editor David Cho and San Francisco Chronicle business editor Owen Thomas, both of whom have re-energized their paper’s business and economics news coverage and added new staff. Also considered was Ellen Pollock, the new business editor at The New York Times who is also expanding with new staff.
Last year’s winner was Lisa Gibbs, who was the Associated Press global business editor.
CNBC’s website hasn’t been around as long as many of the other players in business journalism. Its web content was part of MSN Money Central until December 2006, when it broke free and created its own site. As a result, it’s been playing catch-up to the dominant players in the field such as Yahoo Finance and Forbes.
Yarow started in business journalism a decade ago as an intern for Business Insider. He also interned at BusinessWeek before it was sold to Bloomberg. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Delaware and a master’s in journalism from New York University.
Yarow rose through the ranks at Business Insider and became executive editor of the site, responsible for setting the editorial strategy and managing all of the content and coverage. Business Insider, started by Henry Blodget, was — and remains — the No. 2 business news site when Yarow left in late February 2016.
Yarow, whose desk is in the middle of the CNBC newsroom in New Jersey, about 40 feet from the television set, began executing CNBC.com’s focus on all things money. The strategy set forth was that everyone is interested in content about money, whether it’s investors or people who want to get smarter about how to earn, save and spend money.
CNBC’s digital operations were previously organized around breaking news and enterprise news. Yarow reorganized the newsroom to have editorial leaders overseeing key areas of covering who are in charge of both breaking news and deeply reported features. He hired Jeff McCracken from Bloomberg News to be the website’s managing editor.
“He has a knack for knowing people’s strengths and encourages us to use our talents to amplify our coverage, making CNBC.com better, faster and more plugged in with the news of the moment,” said McCracken.
One of those key areas of coverage is tech news, which has been one of the website’s top performing sections each month this year with triple-digit, year-over-year growth. He hired former Business Insider executive editor Matt Rosoff to run the tech team and bulked it up with hires such as Fast Company’s Christina Farr, Bloomberg News’ Alex Sherman and Jillian D’Onfro, previously with Business Insider.
Another content area that has grown under Yarow is its Make It section. He hired Jenna Goudreau from Business Insider to oversee the section, which hit an all-time traffic record in November for the 12th consecutive month. Fifty-six percent of Make It’s unique visitors arrive specifically to read and watch its general money content. In September, Make It and Bustle announced the launch of “Young Money,” a digital video series featuring comedian Akilah Hughes.
“Jay has the rare ability to cut through the noise and ask smart questions that make you see things in a totally different way,” said Goudreau. “He’s brought fresh eyes and a bold vision to CNBC Digital, energizing the entire organization and setting it on the path to being first in business online.”
Yarow has also focused on other areas. He moved Jeff Nash to the new position of managing editor of audience growth to focus on growing CNBC’s presence on external sites such as Twitter and Facebook. CNBC is now creating content specifically tailored to fit individual platforms. So far this year, traffic from social platforms to CNBC.com has grown 83 percent.
CNBC has also bulked up its video efforts. The Tech and Make It sections now have dedicated video teams, allowing them to create more content than before. Reporters are writing shorter stories to get breaking news online faster. And there’s an increased emphasis on search engine optimization.
To be sure, Yarow is not perfect. At least a dozen CNBC.com editorial staffers have left the news organization since he took over, many complaining about his management style and the strategic changes.
But it’s hard to argue with the numbers.
In addition to the jump in overall unique visitors, CNBC’s digital operations have seen a 105 percent growth in monthly mobile visitors to a record-breaking 30 million. It has been the No. 1 site in desktop video with 19.4 million unique viewers, up 58 percent from a year ago.
And the site has seen a number of sections reach all-time highs this year, including Make It, economy, technology, consumer, personal finance, health care, business, life, finance and real estate.
“Jay has helped turbo-charge our digital growth,” said Nikhil Deogun, editor in chief of CNBC Business News. “His keen story sense and constant collaboration with our television producers and programmers has helped maximize our journalism.”