Axios Pro: Media Deals

December 05, 2023

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Good morning, Media Deals readers!

🗣️ Situational awareness: "It allows us to operate our business more effectively. It's simpler for us. It's one network infrastructure at the core," AT&T CEO John Stankey said this morning at UBS' conference about its Open RAN build with Ericsson.

1 big thing: Digital media, creator economy, NFTs

Shira Lazar. Photo illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios. Photo: Robyn Von Swank

Being recognized for appearing on a gas station television is part of the strategy for running a successful media business, What's Trending founder Shira Lazar tells Kerry.

Why it matters: Building brand awareness through partnerships with digital out-of-home platforms comes as audience attention becomes more fragmented and competitive across other online channels.

Catch up quick: Lazar founded What's Trending in 2011 after working as an on-air personality for broadcast networks. Her company covers viral news with a website, newsletter and more than 5 million followers across YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and other apps.

This interview was edited for clarity, style and length.

What's your biggest challenge with What's Trending?

  • "Monetization. There's no lack of opportunities for distribution and eyeballs. It's how do you monetize that in a scalable way? As a company that was first very social-first, we've benefited from that, but also, it was hard because there's a lack of ownership and understanding of that audience, and then ultimately, you're at the whims of these companies."
  • "Our rise came from being lean and moving quickly and also really taking advantage of the relationships we've built over time."

What motivated you to partner with out-of-home platforms like GSTV?

  • "There's that surprise and delight of 'Oh wait, I follow them on Instagram, and now they're at the gas station. Now they're in movie theaters. They're in the airport.' It creates this 360 experience. There's so much power with these IRL spaces as digital and social becomes more noisy. ... There's the power to monetize that, as well."

What has surprised you about the creator economy recently?

  • "AI influencers. Lil Miquela [launched in 2016]. We didn't see it as much for a long time until the year of AI, and now we're seeing it to another degree."
  • "How long it's taken for [gifts on livestreams] to expand to the U.S. Twitch was already there for gamers, but not as much for lifestyle streamers."
  • "How big can MrBeast continue growing?"

Why are you interested in NFTs?

  • "Some of my old web2 friends asked me to host Twitter Spaces about NFTs. ... I've always been in the business of community building, creative disruption and emerging spaces where people can express themselves."
  • "I'm still very much bullish on blockchain tech. I think it's a solution to royalties or compensation. ... I think the version of NFTs we knew are over."

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