Media Moves

TheStreet CEO: Business journalism will be a growth area forever

October 23, 2014

Posted by Chris Roush

Elisabeth DeMarse, chairman and CEO of the financial news operation TheStreet Inc., was named Thursday to the board of directors of AppNexus, the world’s largest independent ad tech company.

Prior to joining TheStreet, DeMarse successfully led a variety of U.S. and international financial information and technology businesses, often guiding them through important phases of company growth and expansion.

She has held leadership roles at Bloomberg L.P., where she was chief marketing officer for 10 years and launched; Hoover’s Inc., where she was executive vice president of international operations; and Citibank, where she worked in the information business.

Most recently, DeMarse was CEO of Newser, an online news curation site, after serving as CEO of and Bankrate, Inc.

A graduate of Harvard Business School and a cum laude graduate of Wellesley College, DeMarse is the recipient of multiple awards, including Advertising Women of New York’s Working Mother of the Year, Dealmakers Monthly’s Dealmaker of the Year, Min’s “One of the Most Intriguing People in Media,” and the Association for Corporate Growth’s Award for Outstanding Corporate Growth.

She has also been named one of the National Organization For Women’s Women of Power and Influence, and has been included on Fast Company Fast 50 and Inc. 500.

DeMarse spoke Thursday afternoon by telephone with Talking Biz News about her role in corporate America and in business journalism. What follows is an edited transcript.

As a board member for AppNexus, what would you tell your staff at TheStreet about online advertising and its future role for media?

It’s a real cool company.  In terms of of our operations, it’s wonderful to have insight into programmatic advertising, which is 30 percent of our advertising revenue.

What would happen if a journalist at TheStreet wanted to write about AppNexus?

They can cover the company. It is not a public company, so it’s not something that we would cover. As a board member, I would not comment about the company unless the the management asked me to.

You’ve been a well-known woman on the business side of financial news. How hard was it to make that inroad?

Everybody needs help, and everybody gets a lot of help. Nobody can make it on their own. I’m no different. I have had three good mentors, with Michael Bloomberg, Michael Wolff and Jim Cramer. I am passionate about the markets and passionate about financial literacy, so this is pretty easy for me. My work, I have enjoyed every minute of it.

In terms of how hard it was to make that inroad, it didn’t feel hard. It felt like fun. You do have to work hard. There are no shortcuts.

Do you see more women becoming interested in financial news?

I don’t know the answer to that. I think it is still more of a skewed slightly male in terms of audience and membership. It is 60 to 70 percent male in terms of equities. That number has been in place for a very long time, and I haven’t seen it change.

In journalism, what I would say there is that journalism programs are 70 percent female, but the newsrooms are 40 percent female. I wish that gender diversity was an important goal. I was thinking this in terms of the newsroom, and when Nate Silver can say clubhouse chemistry is important, I love the guy and respect the guy, but he may not understand what he is implying when he says that.

I have kind of given up on the older generation. I don’t think they get it. I teach at Yale from time to time, and what I say to the younger guys there is that please make a special effort to be fair to your classmates. Don’t bow so much to clubhouse chemistry.

DeMarse and GuyonWhere does TheStreet stand with diversity in its newsroom?

We don’t publish that number. I think we’re pretty good. Our editor in chief is a woman, Janet Guyon. I think that there is a lot of power in having the examples in leadership roles.

Give us an update on how TheStreet is doing since you became CEO.

We’re such a different company than we were two years ago. We’ve bought three companies in two years in the M&A space. We did not have a platform the way we do now. We want to buy more in this world of change of control transactions. It’s a whole new direction for the company. We’ve gone from advertising supported newsletters and now we have a very strong leg in this very valuable news and data area of change of control transactions.

What does the acquisition of BoardEx mean for the company?

We’re continuing our consolidation play of news, data and analysis. And that has a collateral benefit of increasing our subscription revenue. It has gone from 65 percent of our total revenue to 83 percent of our total revenue. And it doubles the size of our mergers and acquisitions business.

What areas are TheStreet looking at for expansion?

Our favorite is definitely to continue consolidations around The Deal platform. It has enormous brand equity. The data and the news is bulletproof. You can take it to the bank.

I really like businesses where you can charge people a lot of money because you help them make money. That’s why business journalism will be a growth area forever. It has that Darwinian dynamic.

Can you give us an update on the situation with The Washington Post columnist criticizing TheStreet reporter Adam Feuerstein for colluding with short sellers?

Is short selling good or bad? That’s a totally legitimate question that has been asked for decades. But to imply that a respected journalist is working with shorts, especially at a company with the strictest insider trading policies in the industry, I just thought that was preposterous.

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