Mike Isaac

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Ex-WSJ Reporter’s New Subscription Tech Site, The Information, Launches

the_information_logoA new technology publication founded by former Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin launched on Wednesday.

Drawing heavily from Lessin’s background at the Journal, the site — called The Information — will be subscription-based; access will cost $39 monthly, or $399 annually.

The site’s value proposition, as Lessin puts it, is to rise above the daily clutter of tech news, an environment where many smaller tech outlets are focused on the latest headline while eschewing deeper, more investigative analytic reporting.

“The opportunity exciting to me was to build a different type of publication, relevant and smart for both people who work in the industry but also people outside the industry who want to know more about it,” Lessin said in an interview. “It’s for the audience who aren’t just scanning the headlines, but those who come read a publication on a deeper level.”

Currently, The Information has a staff of eight — five full-time reporters, a developer, and two part-time contributors. And since the team is small (especially compared to her former place of employment), Lessin expects her reporters to focus on the areas in which they will have the most impact. Lessin, for instance, covered Apple at The Wall Street Journal, and will likely continue writing about the company, as well as about other areas in which she has expertise. Similarly, former WSJ reporter Amir Efrati will probably report on Google and other companies he has written about in the past, while not excluding new subject areas.

Immediately upon the publication’s announcement, questions arose on how stable the site’s monetization model will be; almost instantly after a story is published on sites like the New York Times or The Wall Street Journal — both of which are behind paywalls — smaller outlets scan the articles for nuggets of information to aggregate and regurgitate with little additional reporting. That could harm the site’s prospects to gain a decent paid-subscriber base.

Lessin, however, isn’t terribly worried about it. “Aggregation and summary is a natural part of the business. At the end of the day, audiences going to aggregated articles aren’t the people that we’re focused on,” she said. “The way I see it, it’s a way to help get our brand out there to people who are never going to be subscribers, while we focus on a different type of audience.”

“Yes, we want to go after professionals, but we still want to reach a broader pool of entrepreneurs or people who don’t pay for content today, but may be willing to do so,” Lessin said. “And, after all, 39 bucks a month is less than two Uber rides across San Francisco.”

Currently, the site does not host any ads, and Lessin said that, for now, she has no intention of introducing advertising. The plan is to publish at least one or two pieces of new content on a daily basis, focusing less on high-volume story output and more on feature-length pieces. Lessin also plans to publish a weekly newsletter on industry goings-on to be sent to her subscribers.

The company is looking to hire more reporters and developers — albeit slowly — as the site continues to grow.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus