Media News

Insider EIC Carlson: We can be the next-gen WSJ

June 15, 2023

Posted by Chris Roush

Nicholas Carlson

Insider editor in chief Nicholas Carlson sent out the following in the wake of its agreement with its editorial union:

Hello, everyone. I have two things to say. I want to say welcome back and thank you. And I want to talk about what we need to do now to get us where we need to be.

So first: Welcome back, and thank you.

I’m glad to finally be speaking to all of you again.

Congratulations to our unionized colleagues on their new CBA. Journalists deserve to have good careers, and I’m happy to see a deal that takes big steps toward making that happen here and everywhere.

Thank you again to everyone who worked during the strike. Our audience loved your work and was very grateful. So am I.

The last few weeks have been hard. I hope and believe we can reconcile with each other.

I think the first step toward that is always remembering that our colleagues are humans and deserve to be treated with respect, even when you disagree with them.

Now I want to talk about where we’re going and what we need to do right now to get there.

We have a lot of exciting, fun, and hard work to do.

I also don’t want to bullshit you about where we are right now. Traffic is down. Subs are down. Video views are down. That was true two weeks ago and has been true for months, so I’m not talking about the impact of a strike. I’m talking about a changing reading and watching environment where Facebook is no longer sharing links, Snapchat is sunk, people aren’t hanging on Trump’s every word anymore, and there’s no more pandemic to demand you read the news every day.

Giant forces beyond our control have formed a perfect storm trying to sink us, and we are in for a fight to earn our audience and earn our existence into the future.

After a few years of drift, we are returning to our core focus. Insider is a business, economy and tech-first publication built for people who are fascinated with those topics. Plus, we have a lot of great coverage in other areas that matters to those people.

I hate comparing us to other publications, but it is a very easy shorthand to say we are once again working on becoming the next-gen WSJ.

This news should not demotivate people who aren’t squarely tech or business reporters. The WSJ has lots of really excellent coverage in areas outside of business. It covered the Met Gala, the Oscars, and Vanderpump Rules this year. It has won Pulitzers for coverage of Trump, the 9/11 attacks, and AIDS in Africa.

We are also working on changing how our subscriptions business works. In the near future, all of our work will be behind a “smart paywall,” which will ask people to pay only if a very smart algorithm thinks they are likely to pay.

Because homepages, email, and app are more valuable forms of distribution than ever, we are also working on a multifaceted plan to make our homepages, email, and app more attractive to readers. That includes a redesign but also a new role in the newsroom: the anchor.

Another part of our plan: We are finally going to launch our AI pilot group. We are not going to have the editorial budgets of places like the NYT, Bloomberg, or the WSJ for a very long time, if ever. We need every advantage we can grab to compete with them. AI is one of them. So very soon, it is going to be our expectation that you know how to use it to make yourself faster and better and irreplaceable.

There has been an enormous amount of misinformation out there about what we intend to do with AI. Most of it is nonsense, and I’d like to clear that up. So we’ll be holding an open meeting where you can come and talk to me about it as we move forward. Look for an invite. If you can’t make it, what I will say is that ChatGPT and other tools can make your writing better and faster. It can make our site look a lot better too.

So that’s some of what we are up to. There is more, but we’re not ready to discuss it yet. As a management team, we are working hard to be able to better articulate our vision, our plan, and the next few concrete steps we are taking to bring it to life.

OK! We have a LOT of work to do and do not have time for a long speech for me, so I’m about done. Thanks again for those of us who kept the newsroom going during the past week. And congratulations to those of you with an amazing CBA. You fought hard for it, and you deserve it.

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