In a day and age where we are constantly connected, and where the bad news never seems to end, the act of reading the news daily can be exhausting. There are a multitude of platforms to choose from, each with their own bias, which must be carefully accounted for. Fake news is, unfortunately, a real problem. Navigating this tangled web can be overwhelming—so much so that it is tempting just to ignore the news altogether.
Thankfully, innovative entrepreneur Jacqueline Leung has curated an easier way to consume the news—Pressed News. Delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday mornings, Pressed gives you the news of the day in easy to read, engaging emails that make staying up to date as stress-free and accessible as possible. For those who prefer to listen rather than read on their morning commute, they also offer a weekly podcast with all you need to know. Best of all, Pressed is completely free (though you can support them on Patreon here).
I had the opportunity to sit down with Jacqueline, the founder and editor-in-chief of Pressed, along with Lori Harito, the managing editor, about the inspiration behind the platform, news consumption in a digital age, and the challenges of entrepreneurship.
Laura Parent: Thank you so much for letting us come and talk to you today. So I am recently familiar with Pressed, I’m more familiar with a similar publication called theSkimm, that’s my first experience with this kind of platform. What gave you the idea to start Pressed?
Jacqueline Leung: I had never used to follow the news, and I found theSkimm, I was an avid Skimm’r, 2015 was like the ‘Year of theSkimm’ for me. Canada was electing a new prime minister, and I thought, this is awesome, theSkimm is going to teach me everything I need to know, and then they didn’t say one thing about it, until Trudeau got elected, and their headline was ‘Hot guy elected up North’, not even a headline, that was the only thing. It was this one-time fire in me that felt like ‘we need to do better, there’s got to be more, and I want to know more’.
I actually reached out to the CBC and Toronto Star at the time, to be like, ‘do you have something like this?’ and nobody responded, obviously. Eventually, I just thought I would do it myself. I’ve always been quite a good writer, I don’t really like writing, to be honest, but I’ve always been really good at it. I started to send the word document to friends, and it turns out everybody was feeling the same way, at least all the people I was talking to felt the same way, and then the way you grow a business- logo, website, all these things- it kind of became what it is now.
It really did start out as a Canadian version of theSkimm, but now that we’ve been in it, I’m really discovering that our mission is, the problem we’re trying to solve is if you and I have different knowledge gaps and interests, why does the news get delivered to us in the same way? Whether it’s theSkimm way, or the CBC way, it’s still one way, so how do we make it so that if you’re really good at politics and I’m not, we have to know the same story, but it needs to be written in a way that we both understand, with different contexts.
LP: Absolutely. That’s what I think I like most about this model, is that it’s really accessible for everyone. I love to keep up with the news but it’s really hard when you’re going through so many different platforms, so I like being able to check my email in the morning and see what’s going on. I appreciate that there’s a Canadian perspective as well, because theSkimm is super American.
JL: SUPER American, like to the point where they talk about something that I’ve never heard of.
LP: For sure. So, why do you think this model works so well in this day and age, like this idea of news being sent right to you, the most important headlines of what’s happening?
JL: I think the reason why I never followed the news is because there’s an expectation from legacy media titles that if you want to know something, come to us. If you want to know knowledge, come to us. I don’t think it has to be that way, I think there’s a new generation, I would say, from like 40 to younger, that consumes news and media in a totally different way. I just think that we need to figure out a way to get that news to them, or else we’re ignoring a huge part of the population and we’re all going to be taught about different things and continuing to segregate ourselves.
LP: So Jacqueline, where do you personally get all your news from then, where do you curate Pressed?
JL: That’s a really great question. So Lori’s our managing editor, and she does all the curation now. I get all my news from… we just scour the internet, like BBC, CBC, Twitter is a big one for us, YouTube to see what’s trending, basically every… we try to look at all the different major news sites and see who’s talking about what, because our goal is to make sure that you know what everyone’s going to be talking about the next day. Even if it’s a headline we don’t agree with, we’ll probably tell you about it, so you’re not left out.
Lori Harito: I find podcasts of the news is a really good resource, to get the news, to get more in depth, and the focal point. We’re obviously aren’t just theSkimm. For me, podcasts help me understand the actual context, and the backstory, so I’m a huge fan.
LP: Obviously, I think with media now, I think there’s been huge talk about trying to get people engaged, especially young people, and this whole idea of fake news, and so many different issues within the media lately, looking at the current political climate. How do you handle that, making sure you’re engaging with people, especially young people, so that they’re informed, but also ensuring that you’re providing the truth?
JL: With the engagement piece, I think that’s our whole mission. We’ve done a couple surveys now, and we’re also really truthful with how we want to consume the news, so our team, there’s me, Lori, another editor, and four writers, we all come from a space where we feel like this is a problem in the world, so we understand how we want to consume the news and where we want to consume the news, and we’re very truthful with that.
In terms of combating fake news, every story goes through at least three people, so it goes through three different editing stages, and we make sure that everyone looks at three different news sources for the information before we actually put it to paper or computer. If three massive news outlets are reporting on fake news, likely we’re going to report on it too. It’s very difficult because we’re not on the ground.
LP: I can imagine it’s quite difficult. So is your audience, like you said, twenty to forty, do you find it skews a bit younger?
JL: Our core demographic is 28-34 year old women.
LH: To add to that, she’s a 28-34 year old woman, but the point is that we’re delivering the news to the audience wherever they are, we’re giving them email on mobile when they’re commuting, we’re giving them podcasts, we are wherever they are.
LP: Which I think is really helpful when you’re trying to get the news to someone. It’s already there, there’s no excuse when it comes right to your inbox.
JL: We’ve been experimenting with different formats actually, because we’re realizing that the even younger audience, so university students, aren’t really on email, we find that email is more for the working professional, so how do we reach students and younger audiences?
LP: Definitely. I know I’m always on my email, so this is great for me, but not everyone is always plugged in to their email.
LH: But are you also on Instagram and Instagram stories?
LP: Oh, for sure.
LH: Yeah, that’s another way that people get their news.
LP: Yeah, even Twitter is a big one, I’m always on Twitter seeing what’s going on.
LH: Did you follow the news before theSkimm?
LP: I did, on and off, because I was a journalism student, I did get in the habit of checking what was going on, but most of my news was what’s happening on Twitter, and then click through on headlines, and occasionally I would check the CBC or the BBC, but I wasn’t regularly looking, it was just whatever I picked up or whatever people were talking about at the time. I want to be involved, and I want to know what’s going on, but it’s also a lot of effort to check a bunch of different news sites, and see what’s happening, and read all the different headlines. It’s a lot easier now getting the major information sent right to me, so there’s no excuse. I can just click it in the morning, and I know what’s going on and I feel educated.
LH: When you were reading theSkimm, did you click on the external links?
LP: Yeah, for sure, if it was something I was really interested in, maybe not so much the political stuff, but if it’s environmental issues, or social issues, I’ll click through to see if there’s something I’m already a bit knowledgeable about or want to learn more about.
LH: Do you read the whole email, or just stories that interest you?
LP: I read the whole email.
LH: Just doing some market research here (laughs).
LP: I may be an outlier, because I’m one of those university students who is like ‘oh! Email!’ all of the time, always checking it, I’m one of the weird ones I think.
LH: It’s funny because our email takes like 5 minutes to read, which I think is nothing, and it’s easily digestible, but I found a lot of people I talk to are like, ‘oh, I read your soundbites, and just choose the ones’, and seriously? It already only takes like five minutes to read.
JL: It takes 5 minutes to read but behind the scenes, it’s taken us five hours to put together a five minute newsletter, and people will read just the soundbites. You can’t change people, and that’s fine, that’s how people choose to consume the news, but the behind the scenes story is so much more than that.
LP: I can only imagine how much work goes into curating all that, but we appreciate it! What is your vision going forward for Pressed, where you’d like to see yourself go in the next few years?
JL: SO MUCH. I have so many goals and dreams and aspirations. Ultimately I want to be the go-to source, first for Canadian young millenials, instead of them going to Twitter as their only source, because what I found in the beginning when we were doing surveys, was that people were going to Twitter and reading the headlines, but why would you click to an article that’s 2000 words? We’re trying to become this new source that makes the news normal, makes it a day to day thing for you. That means new platforms, new technology, yeah.
LP: I can imagine social media, digital age, it’s really amazing, but a little bit difficult to get people to read.
JL: But it’s fun, it’s really fun to discover new ways to speak to people, because it’s really new. Not sure if it’s going to work yet, but it’s fun.
LP: It works for me, I’m a big fan, so you’re doing something right. In terms of working with Pressed, what has been your greatest success, or what are you most proud of?
JL: I think the thing I’m most proud of is the team that we’ve built, and I’m not just saying that because you’re [Lori] here, but because in my career path, I never felt like I was a good manager, so I felt like no one’s going to want to work with me, but that’s been my greatest success, I think. I have a lot of startup/founder friends now, who have had a really hard time finding people. I’m lucky that our product is fun and interesting, and trying to change the world, but also a lot of people I’ve worked with that work on my team have been with me a really long time. Like me and Lori, are like, over two years now, and our company is two years old, so that’s my proudest thing. Obviously when, people email us everyday, and tell us how much they love what we’re doing that’s also super gratifying, it’s a really nice feeling too.
LH: To add to the team aspect, there is a really good healthy sense of loyalty with the team, and what we do, it’s difficult, it takes up a lot of time, and a lot of brain space to think about what we want to write and how we’re going to write it. Our writers, our associate editor, we’ve all stuck with it because we love the company, and that’s not something you find with a lot of startups. I think that really speaks to how courageous Jacqueline is, and how much leeway she gives us, and how much time she gives us to explore.
JL: Thanks Lori!
LP: So, is this your first start up, is this your first entrepreneurial experience?
LP: So, terrifying. I’m getting ready to make that transition myself. What has been the biggest lesson in being an entrepreneur and getting this thing off the ground? What is one lesson that has really stuck with you in this experience?
JL: So it’s something that I’m still working on, and that I would say is trusting yourself. I know that’s kind of a fluffy answer, but I think when you start a company, you have a path in mind, and you think it’s going to work a certain way, but really it’s trying new things and seeing what’s going to work, and trusting that the decisions you’re making are going to take you along a certain path. If you’re doing it with good intentions, and the same mission in mind, then it’s going to take you in the right place. I’m still struggling with that, I still don’t trust myself enough I think, but for anyone who’s starting a new business, I think that’s a good way to run it.
LP: So, just jumping off that then, what’s the best part of working for yourself or having your own business, compared to your previous experience?
JL: My previous job was awesome, I worked at Rogers, I loved working there, I was at Sportsnet, I got to work on Vice, it was really interesting stuff, I had great people around me. I think that the biggest difference between working corporate and an entrepreneur, is that when you’re in corporate, you have to answer to a lot of other people, and a lot of other strategies, and ideas, and rules, so I would come up with these ideas, or projects I would want to work on, and it would have to go through ten different approvals. It would get to maybe the second one, and then someone’s personal goals wouldn’t align with mine, and then I couldn’t do it anymore. It really started to feel like, ‘what’s the point of me coming to work anymore if I can’t give you my best?’ That was a real driving force for me, so now the best part of Pressed is that sometimes our ideas fail, but we get to try anything we want, and we’re always pushing ourselves to be our best.
LP: So final question, I see that you’ve been nominated for a Notable award (which she won!), which is amazing.
LH: Yes, my girl! I’m so tired thinking about tomorrow already, it’s going to be insane. For her more, I’m just going to her work to get my makeup done.
LP: So what does that meant to you, Jacqueline?
JL: I’m so excited! I’ve never been to the Notable Awards, and I’ve seen it on social media for a couple of years, and last year, I was like ‘how do I get an invite to this?’, and now this year I get to go as a nominee, which is super exciting.
LP: That’s amazing! Well, those were all the questions I had for you, thank you so much for speaking with us about Pressed.
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