Fifteen years ago today, TheWrap launched. Three or four of us had been working 14-hour days for a week to build up enough content to move into daylight, toiling out of a tiny guesthouse behind my house in Santa Monica, with an assistant bringing me sandwiches since I couldn’t get up from my desk.
The grinding pace was not for the faint-hearted; my then-deputy in Canada quit suddenly at 7 a.m. in those first days; just dropped his pen and walked away. The rest of us pushed on.
It was January 2009 and the world was in financial freefall. An intrepid venture company named Maveron (cofounded by Howard Schultz and Dan Levitan), along with my family and a handful of brave investors, backed me to the tune of a couple million dollars. I had no business experience. No management experience. No digital experience to speak of.
But I had a feeling that this was a moment that anyone with some guts and smarts could seize. Media seemed on the precipice of radical change. Disruption meant opportunity. On the very day of our launch, the legacy publication Variety laid off 30 people. We hired one of them.
At the time of our launch, I wrote: “A year ago I left the New York Times with a sinking feeling about what was happening to professional journalism … The entertainment and media industries are at a fateful crossroads. TheWrap will be a resource for anyone who is interested in understanding the changes in our popular culture, and navigating what has become a global industry.”
It has been a dizzying and unexpected journey. In the short and endless time of 15 years, many other media companies have risen and fallen. Some have risen to great heights, only to crash and burn. More have been bought and neglected or shuttered. Others raised many millions and spent the cash, only to shut down.
We continue, steady and focused, through the chaos. Through the Facebook craze, the pivot to video, the chase for branded content and the content farms that Google killed.
Through it all our mission has been simple: to create a business model to sustain journalism in the digital age. That’s it. We have succeeded in that mission. We are a thriving and growing newsroom. We create beautiful and relevant video, social and print magazines. We have an ambitious book on the horizon (stay tuned). And throughout, we have stuck to journalism. Entertainment journalism, in fact. We serve our readers, first and last. And they have stuck by us with loyalty and love.
I wrote this in 2009, and it is still true: “Please consider this a conversation. A dialogue. We will make mistakes, and you will point them out. We will ruffle feathers, and that’s part of an honest conversation. But we hope most of all that you will participate. Write. Comment. Share. And join us in the digital age.”
Many ask me if I intend to sell this company, or if I’m tired of it. I’m not interested in selling. I’m not tired of it, not at all. Our team has never been stronger, despite the headwinds facing media, yet again. We are energized every day to pursue our mission, and know that the rewards are not just in building a business, but in serving as an essential, daily partner to those who gives us their precious time and attention.
We intend to make it worthwhile, every day.
Happy Birthday to us.