Since leaving NBCUniversal’s highest corporate ranks in 2013, B&C Hall of Famer Lauren Zalaznick has been working as an advisor to Medium, Refinery29, the Sundance Institute and Venture for America. She is also on the board of Shazam and Penguin/Random House.
Zalaznick describes her work as an investor and advisor for media start-ups as a “starburst” of “amazing people and amazing content,” adding, “I’ve never touched more content touching more people.”
A big focus at the moment is her role as senior advisor to LifePosts, a platform for commemorating people and milestones that came out of beta last month. “It’s the one true start-up that I’ve committed to side-by-side with the founder [Steve Waldman, journalist, entrepreneur and her friend since middle school],” she says.
Zalaznick also founded The LZ Sunday Paper, a newsletter by and about women in business, politics, digital, film, TV, fashion, sports and pop culture. An edited version of her conversation with B&C’s Melissa Grego follows.
Why did you start The LZ Sunday Paper?
I started The LZ Sunday Paper as a little bit of a personally creative and intellectual outlet. It is a huge benefit of being outside the corporate realm. As much as it’s en vogue for CEOs to blog and tweet, I think there’s a lot of good reasons not to.
There is so much great information about and by women in business and culture that just sorting through it, I was slightly less busy for one second and I could essentially read the Internet and process it every week. It was a delight to try to do that.
You’ve said you don’t see it as a business, but it does take a lot of focus and energy and you describe yourself as the CEO and founder. Do you still not see LZ Sunday Paper as a business?
It’s an incredible way to reach a lot of extremely engaged influential men and women in media and technology businesses, and I think the value is in that. I have zero plans to sell click-through ads.…What I’d like to do is continue to expand the readership and make it a lot more sound from a technology platform basis.
There’s a momentary rush in announcing [a personal event] on social media. A hundred likes, 500 likes. Great. But it disappears from your newsfeed. Sentiments are lost.…This is a way to capitalize on the power and strength of social media while incorporating personal tributes and history into the fabric of everyday life.
In the time since you left NBCU, the landscape has changed quite a bit. Where do you see the greatest opportunity, especially as you work with start-ups?
I’m a big believer in traditional media.…I’m not a big media naysayer. I really respect it, I’ve grown up in it, I love it, I’m really good at it. What I do for self-interest and a new kind of passion and expertise is new content start-up culture.
I really like the idea of small, passionate, affinity groups-driven content rising up in the landscape and becoming the big media companies of the future. It’s not like I look at small companies and say “that’s adorable” and hope they stay small. I really think some of them are going to either blossom and grow to be enormous or they will be bundled or aggregated.
Would you go back to a corporate role at a major media company?
I actually tend to do what’s in front of me right in that moment, and I’ve never in my life had much of a long-term plan. I feel like the most important thing to me is the actual specific opportunity.… It’s more about an open, general mind-set about any interesting and big growth opportunity that surrounds content and audience.