Why The Information launched a Creator Economy newsletter
Kaya Yurieff explains how she shapes her daily coverage of creators and the startups that service them.
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When it comes to coverage of the tech sector, few publications can match the journalistic heft of The Information. Launched by former WSJ reporter Jessica Lessin in 2013, The Information quickly became an industry powerhouse, attracting some of the world’s best journalists who broke many of the biggest scoops over the past decade. If there’s a major story in tech, chances are that an Information reporter is chasing it.
So it wasn’t exactly a surprise when, in January 2021, the publication put out a job ad for a Creator Economy reporter. With an estimated $100 billion in annual revenue, the Creator Economy has not only launched the careers for thousands of creators, but it’s also become the core focus for many of the world’s largest tech platforms. VCs have poured billions of dollars into Creator Economy startups, and creators themselves are upending entire industries that include beauty, commerce, health, and entertainment.
In April 2021, The Information announced that it had hired Kaya Yurieff, a former CNN tech reporter, to helm its Creator Economy coverage, and she’s since launched a daily newsletter that, in addition to publishing regular feature stories, also rounds up deals, trends, and product launches.
Given the relative newness of the Creator Economy beat, I wanted to get a better idea of how Yurieff approaches the role. In a recent interview, she explained why she took the job, how she shapes her daily coverage, and who reads her newsletter. Let’s jump into my findings…
How one becomes a Creator Economy reporter
A half decade ago, the Creator Economy beat hardly existed. Publishers would produce one-off profiles of famous YouTubers and other influencers, but it’s only relatively recently that outlets like Business Insider, The New York Times, and NBC started hiring reporters who were singularly focused on the creator niche.
At CNN, Yurieff started out with general tech reporting and then fell into Creator Economy coverage gradually. “I really was always interested in social media companies and so that became part of my beat over time,” she said. In the early days, she pitched creator stories as part of a larger trend. “I remember that there was this small update from Snap that they were going to start giving creators access to their analytics, and that was a big deal because if you were a creator on Snapchat, you only had access to the same data as any other user. So I positioned it as the story of Snapchat competing for celebrity users with Instagram.”
In 2019, she published a widely-praised story about trans creators on YouTube. “I wrote about how, on the one hand, it's been a really great platform for them to be able to connect with other people and provide education to others, but they’ve also faced harassment and had to deal with YouTube demonetizing their videos.” She was also among the first mainstream journalists to call attention to YouTuber burnout.
While Yurieff never moved off the general tech beat, her editors started giving her more and more leeway in reporting on the Creator Economy. So when she became alerted to The Information’s job posting, she jumped at the opportunity. “One of my friends sent me the posting and was like, ‘I feel like this job would be perfect for you.’ So I applied. It was really that easy.”
Finding her reportorial groove
From the very beginning, Yurieff’s role was designed as newsletter-first, which meant she needed to deliver a product to subscribers’ inboxes every evening, Monday through Thursday. “I was really worried about having enough content to fill, and then I quickly realized there's so much happening and there's always something for me to write about.”
Each day’s newsletter usually starts out with an anchor piece consisting of several hundred words. Usually, these anchor pieces summarize some kind of trend that Yurieff has noticed in her day-to-day reporting, and she’ll often include several quotes from sources. On February 7, for instance, she published a piece on “Why Static Video Memes Are All Over Instagram,” and for it she interviewed the creators behind several meme accounts who discussed their strategy. On February 9, she wrote about employees who work for social media platforms while simultaneously creating content for those same platforms. The piece touched on the conflicts of interest that arise when a platform seems to favor content created by its own staff.
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At the bottom of the newsletter is a roundup of Creator Economy news, deals, and funding announcements. Within weeks of starting on the beat, Yurieff realized she was having a difficult time keeping track of the hundreds of platforms and startups that cater to the industry. While some industries have academics and think tanks that assemble databases of all the top players, nothing like that existed for the Creator Economy. “I figured that the best way to do it was just to build it myself. So with the help of our amazing engineering team and my editor, we built this database where we track funding and investors, as well as the category each company is in.”
The Creator Economy Database is fairly easy and intuitive to use, allowing you to sort companies by parameters like category, funding size, and valuation. You can also enter in simple search terms like “NFTs,” “subscriptions,” and “merchandise” to find all the startups that include those features. The database is not only free to use for Information subscribers, but Yurieff also often leverages it when writing her own trend pieces for the newsletter.
Finding an audience
As I documented in an interview with founder Jessica Lessin, The Information was among the first publishers to go all in on a hard paywall, meaning that, outside of a free trial period, its content is made exclusively available to those paying $400 a year for a subscription. Given that this is prohibitively expensive, I asked Yurieff if she thinks her reporting is accessible to the average creator. “The Information has a very business-focused audience,” she said. “So my readers are VCs and entrepreneurs and startup founders and people who work at social media companies. There are bankers and research analysts and influencer marketing agencies that read the newsletter. So I think creators could get a lot out of reading it, but it's not a newsletter that's necessarily geared at creators.”
I asked if she missed writing for a large platform like CNN where her articles could be easily shared on social media. “I think the thing about being at a big media organization is, yes, you have a vast audience, but the results of how many people read your article can vary hugely. It's not a guarantee that every single story is going to be a hit and reach this really wide audience. This is a niche beat, and the people who are reading my work are really highly engaged and interested in the topic, so I think that's a benefit too, versus just writing for a general audience.”
Yurieff’s work has obviously struck a chord, as evidenced by the fact that The Information brought on another Creator Economy reporter back in September. The site also hosted a Creator Economy Summit, which not only featured some of the biggest YouTubers and entrepreneurs on the internet, but also attracted over 700 attendees. With the tech platforms collectively paying out tens of billions of dollars to creators, the industry will only become more relevant to our lives. Yurieff said the thing she loves about writing a daily newsletter is that she gets to be at the center of all that action. “I do think that the newsletter is just such a great anchor for me, because it really has me so on top of every development and helps me really connect the dots in a way that’s a lot faster than if I was just focused on writing stories and features.”
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