Jan 30, 2024 - Business

Exclusive: The Ankler strikes radio deal with LAist, hires new exec editor

The Ankler co-founder Janice Min and documentary programmer Thom Powers at an event they co-hosted together for The Ankler in 2023. Photo: Todd Williamson

The Ankler, the entertainment media startup from veteran Hollywood editor Janice Min and insider columnist Richard Rushfield, has hired David Lidsky as executive editor, Min told Axios. It's also struck a deal with LAist, Southern California Public Radio's flagship station and digital news site.

Why it matters: The deal extends The Ankler's reach to a broader entertainment news audience as it looks to double down on Hollywood coverage.

  • The new hire reflects the company's growth plans as it remains profitable and self-sustaining.
  • With Lidsky, Ankler Media now has seven full-time employees and seven contractors, up from two people at launch two years ago.

Catch up quick: The company was formed in 2022 from a newsletter Rushfield launched in 2017.

  • The duo raised a $1.5 million seed round at a $20 million valuation in June 2022, but has since returned $300,000, Min said.
  • "We didn't need it," Min said. "We've never touched it. We've been profitable almost from launch."

Details: Lidsky comes to The Ankler after 20 years with Fast Company, where he was most recently deputy editor. He brings a wealth of editorial events knowledge to the company as it looks to double down on live experiences.

  • The new deal with LAist will bring The Ankler's reporting to radio, as well as the LAist's website, newsletters and social media accounts, for an estimated combined audience reach of 10 million, per Min.
  • The Ankler's journalists, including Min, Rushfield, and writers Elaine Low, Peter Kiefer and Sean McNulty, will appear on a series of "Entertainment Thursday" programs on LAist 89.3 throughout the day from 5am PT to 6:30pm PT.

The big picture: The Ankler launched at a pivotal moment for Hollywood. The battle for streaming dominance compounded with the simultaneous writers and actors strikes last year drew more attention to news about the industry, which the company has leaned into.

  • "The idea is definitely to super-serve the entertainment industry more, instead of going outside of its borders," Min said.
  • "We would like to have The Ankler be everywhere, and not just necessarily for people who rely on the information behind the paywall."

Zoom out: Other new startups have also tried to capitalize on a growing interest in Hollywood business news, including email newsletter startup Puck and Penske Media, which has expanded its empire to include most of the major Hollywood trade publications.

By the numbers: Min said the firm finished 2023 well into mid-seven figures on revenue, both for subscriptions and advertising.

  • Its flagship newsletter, titled The Ankler, now has over 64,000 subscribers, per Substack, although not all subscribers are paid. It's the third-largest business newsletter on Substack, the email publishing platform used to send its newsletters.
  • The company today publishes seven newsletters on an array of Hollywood-centric topics, like the TV industry and intellectual property, in addition to pop-up emails that are sent around certain events, like the Oscars or the Hollywood strikes. It makes money from newsletter subscriptions, sponsorships and events.

What to watch: Asked about ways to expand its entertainment coverage, Min said Lidsky's experience at Fast Company lends itself well to coverage of innovative topics, such as artificial intelligence's impact on Hollywood.

Go deeper