Robinhood announced last week that it will launch a new media platform and tapped former Verge editor-in-chief and Bloomberg chief digital content officer, Joshua Topolsky, to run it. The new division, called Sherwood Media, will become home to Robinhood’s “news business.”
Sherwood will exist as a subsidiary of Robinhood; supported by the company financially, but operating as an independent arm. Snacks, the financial newsletter Robinhood purchased in 2019, will come under the Sherwood umbrella. Under the Sherwood brand, Robinhood will launch more editorial offerings to complement Snacks, including original reporting, new newsletters and events – and will include ad opportunities.
Robinhood is one of the more interesting companies in the brand publishing space. Content has played a key role in the company’s growth, and continues to be part of its strategy even during a recessionary period. The company has hitherto used education as a core part of its content philosophy with a section on its site called Learn that demystifies basic trading, its acquisition of Say, which lets customers ask companies questions during earnings calls, and Snacks.
It also had a very successful podcast: The Snacks podcast was spun out last year and renamed The Best One Yet and had Robinhood as its sponsor. It also – as I noted at the time – covered Robinhood itself for the first after it was spun out, something it didn’t do when under the Robinhood umbrella.
That is something Sherwood will look to change, indicating a new direction for the company’s publishing strategy. Speaking to Axios, Topolsky said that the new entity will operate as an independent media arm, and will cover Robinhood as is appropriate. Topolsky also said he plans to also create other newsletter products relating to business and finance.
Sherwood’s existence and Robinhood’s insistence on independent authority are indications of how quickly the content landscape is shifting. Consumers are open to information from a variety of sources – including individual newsletter writers and brand publishers. And despite thorny issues of disclosure and bias, any company producing content is doing so for a business reason, regardless of its size or how many people work there. The issue is seemingly less about who owns a publication and more about trust: The content business, whether brand publishing or traditional media is entirely dependent on gaining and retaining audience trust. It was a theme that ran through so many executives answers when I asked them what they were expecting from brand publishing in 2023: That they’re going to have to figure out how to engender audience trust by creating useful, entertaining content.
Don’t call it content marketing
Sherwood also points to another shift, as we reported last week: More and more companies are moving away from content marketing to focus on true publishing – creating as-independent-as-possible media entities that don’t work in the service of a product, but of an audience.
It’s a trend that’s accelerated in recent months as brand publishing continues to evolve quickly. Companies are increasingly making public proclamations about their editorial independence and their intent to produce legitimate journalism, as opposed to more product-focused content marketing. Read more from our piece on how executives are distancing what they do from “content marketing.”
Also worth noting:
- OMERS Ventures investor and former journalist Chrissy Farr outlines why so many VCs are bad at thought leadership.
- We asked publishing leaders at media companies for their 2023 predictions. The big theme: Authentic, high-quality content that cares about what the audience wants.
- JPMorgan sued Frank for allegedly faking thousands of email addresses, leading Eric Newcomer to ask if the end of the bull market will also herald a year of accountability.