I did the Pomp Podcast embedded below…and then used Descript to transcribe it. I did a quick cleanup of the transcription and some small edits but there are probably plenty of mistakes. Either way, watch or read if you are interested!
Anthony Pompliano: [00:00:00] All right guys, bang, bang. I’ve got Jon here. He’s a legend where we’re just leave it at that.
Jon Steinberg: [00:00:11] Although most people, when you put out that you were interviewing me their, their number one question was who is this guy?
Anthony Pompliano: [00:00:18] You, you have to learn the first rule of Twitter, which has never read the comments because of whether they’re good or bad.
They’re not good to read, right?
Jon Steinberg: [00:00:25] Yeah. That’s, that’s definitely true.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:00:28] All right. Well, let’s go through your background before you started Cheddar.
Jon Steinberg: [00:00:31] You got it. What’d you get, I just go, I just got it. Yeah. I’d just go.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:00:35] Have you done a podcast before?
Jon Steinberg: [00:00:37] Yeah, I think I’ve done like Brian Morrissey’s Digiday podcast.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:00:40] All right. All right. So we’re the second podcast you’re doing. You just talk and I’ll interrupt you. And when you need to shut up.
Jon Steinberg: [00:00:45] Okay. I give very concise answers too. That’s kind of what I, what I do as well. All right. So a very winding and meandering, career path. The highlights were, I was a Disney Imagineer in high school and intern.
I got that through basically writing them a letter as a kid, and it was kind of like the movie Big. So I used to go out to Burbank and work on theme park attractions. And I did that from basically 15 to 20. So that was really cool. Then my career did not go so great. And I got stuck being a consultant at Booz Allen after business school, I’m skipping around.
I kind of felt like a child star who had had this bright period of time. And then now I was working in a office park in Northern Virginia. And so then I thought my career was over. But then through a series of lucky happenstances, I got hired into Google to work on partnership deals is a very. low-level junior type person, but that was good experience.
And then a couple other hops. And I became president of Buzzfeed. I met Jonah, I became president Buzzfeed, 15th employee, very little revenue when I joined, I think we got it to 50 or 60 million when I left four years later. Then I did a stint being president of, or CEO of Daily Mail North America, Mailonline. And then founded Cheddar in 2016- January, 2016, started Cheddar. And that’s it.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:02:07] Let’s talk about BuzzFeed real quick. I feel like that was so disruptive when you guys were really scaling, what was that experience like?
Jon Steinberg: [00:02:14] The experience of Buzzfeed was that you can have each of these startups as a series of bets, right?
You place bets. And if one of the big bets works out, you’re generally in a good spot. And if two of the big bets work out, then, it’s like, it’s like, it’s like pocket ACEs, basically, right. Pocket ACEs. And then you hit like an ACE on the flop or something like that. And we had two bets and, the first was Jonah’s bet, Jonah Peretti, the founder’s bet.
That that social traffic would be enormous and Facebook would send enormous amount of traffic to sites that created content that worked well on social. And then my bet was that native advertising, creating advertorials digital advertorials would be a great advertising product in the face of banners, which were still being sold direct in 2010.
And, for a while that that didn’t look so good. 2010, 2011 were very tough, Advertising wasn’t really picking up; social traffic wasn’t really coming. And then 2012, both hit like, like lightning and that’s what made that work.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:03:18] Got it. And so when you then go to start Cheddar, what were the two bets?
Jon Steinberg: [00:03:24] The two bets with Cheddar where that live would be a big thing that people would want live content. Nobody was really doing anything in live, and that there would be all of these OTT systems like Sling TV or what have you, that would want live content that we could be there. And in this area, you universe, there would be no difference between us and CNBC and CNN.
And also subsequently after a couple of different, revenue models. We hit on this kind of live read, branded content type product that worked really well as well. Now, the part of the bet that I got wrong and it took a while for me to get it wrong, but luckily we corrected it was these free TV systems they’re called FAST- free ad supported television, like Pluto and Roku Channel, Samsung TV+ , came out of nowhere, like a tidal wave, and became giant. And the virtual MVPD is like Sling and YouTube TV while very important partners to us and incredible systems didn’t have nearly the scale and the growth that the free TV systems would have. But we were, we were quick enough to make sure that we were on the free TV systems.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:04:30] And so did that change? What the content or just the way you guys approached it? Like what changed when those fast systems came on the market?
Jon Steinberg: [00:04:39] Well, for a while we had two networks, right? We had one network which was designed for the pay TV ecosystem, and we have one network which was designed for the free TV ecosystem.
And then during COVID we did a layoff and we also did a collapse of the two networks into one network. Because, I mean, advertising was very tough during COVID. And so we were able to kind of knit it all together into one thing. But for awhile, we were basically operating almost like two parallel networks to service each of these different platforms.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:05:08] Got it. One of the things that, Cheddar was well known for, at one point was the, trading floor location and also the Flatiron location.
Jon Steinberg: [00:05:19] Yeah.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:05:20] What was the fascination with getting kind of cool memorable locations to actually record
Jon Steinberg: [00:05:27] Live television is a window on the world. People watch live television in the same way they look out the window, especially when it’s news, they want to see like what’s going on in the world. And to the extent that you can provide that, there’s an aura that comes with it. That makes it much more compelling than if you’re just in a studio. And so we were covering the stock market and tech companies and the trading floor is the incarnation of business and markets.
And also by the way, all of these amazing companies come through there every day during the bell. And so that to me was the most important piece in launching the network was that we get on the floor of the stock exchange. And, went to Tom Farley, who was the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange at the time or the president.
And I had been on CNBC a lot as a contributor. So he and I had gotten to be acquaintances. And I laid out this vision of what I wanted to create. I wanted to create a CNBC for millennials and I was going to have deliver and all these new places, and it was going to be on social and right away, he was like, okay, we don’t have much to lose if, if you do well, you can stay.
And if it doesn’t really go anywhere, we’re going to boot you out. And that was. We got going right away.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:06:38] He put you in like the smallest place I’ve ever seen. I was on Cheddar once or twice, and literally it was like wedged into what
Jon Steinberg: [00:06:47] We have the second largest set on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange that set is… CNBC’s is massive CNBC has an entire post, right?
Our thing is bigger than what Fox Business has and bigger than what, Bloomberg has there. I mean the only space more valuable than the floor of the New York Stock Exchange is maybe like, Park Avenue in the seventies. But like, other than that, I would, I would have taken a postage stamp if that’s what, that was the space that he gave me.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:07:12] Well, I was, I was going to say like, you obviously wanted to be there because where they put you, even if it’s the second biggest one, it was just such like a unique spot in between the trading little pits or whatever.
Jon Steinberg: [00:07:22] Yeah. It’s like a wedge between our space is wedged between two trading pods, basically.
It’s, it’s like, it’s almost like if we weren’t using it, it would basically be storage space.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:07:34] Absolutely. So, you also ended up going in, in a very interesting distribution, kind of strategy. So you’re already talking about the FAST systems. You talked about a number of these like OTT platforms. I remember you did deals.
If I remember correctly, at one point, Cheddar was getting streamed to gas stations.
Jon Steinberg: [00:07:52] GSTV we are still on the gas stations.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:07:54] All right. Well explain
Jon Steinberg: [00:07:56] So there is this thing called GSTV run by this guy Sean McCaffrey. Great guy.
I don’t travel anymore because no one travels anymore, but like most gas stations you go to on the pump, there’s a TV screen. And that TV screen runs commercials and news. And basically every time I’ve ever been at one, the news update it’s running is the Cheddar news update. Our anchor Baker Machado is, is, is the, is the gas station, TV anchor, basically.
And it’s great. Gets the brand out there. people hear what Cheddar is for the first time. Everybody makes fun of it, which means they’re seeing it. People make fun of you. That’s when you really know that you’re, that they, that they know who you are and they’re hearing it just when they make funny.
Absolutely, another deal you did was, at one point you were getting like licensed or stream to college campuses. I think
So we bought from Viacom, Viacom had this thing called MTV U, which is screens that are in cafeterias, gyms and student unions. That were hard-coded to MTV, basically playing music videos.
We bought that from them. It’s 1400 screens on 400 campuses and changed it to Cheddar and we call it Cheddar U. And so we have the largest, basically college network, large largest college audience, place-based college audience of anybody through having Cheddar U. So we have that as well too. Look, I’ve been obsessed with distribution.
I mean, if your content is great, and it’s not distributed properly no one’s gonna see it. And there’s a lot of content that’s so, so, but has great distribution and, gets seen by plenty of people. And so, distribution is probably more important than content and content is probably number two.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:09:36] There’s a Y Combinator saying that first-time entrepreneurs worry about product. Second time entrepreneurs worry about distribution. And I think that that’s, a perfect example here. How did that change the conversation with advertisers? One just as you got larger and larger, I’m sure that helped, but two around where you had the distribution.
So it’s one thing to say, Hey, people are coming to our website. It’s a whole other thing to say, gas stations, college campuses, OTT, et cetera.
Jon Steinberg: [00:10:01] The most important thing that’s happened now is we have enough scale on these fast systems that we can run standard 15 to 30 second commercials. Right. And that’s really important because advertisers want simple turnkey solutions, right.
Where we’ve continued to struggle is with measurement, which is that there’s no Nielsen number for all the places we’re in. There’s no single Comscore number, although we’re getting Comscore. And so. That’s been measurement has probably been one of the greatest difficulties of the business has been probably the most great difficulty.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:10:32] Got it. you eventually sold the business, for big number. I’m assuming you, other shareholders did very well in that. why’d you sell
Jon Steinberg: [00:10:40] Well, so, actually what’s interesting about it is I think we did well for the investors and I think it was a great outcome for people who put in early money, made a great return on it.
I think that for a lot of our investors, it wasn’t quite as Silicon Valley return because they didn’t get to put as much money to work as they would would’ve liked. And so I think that, the investors were happy and I think that I’ve a great relationship with them and they would certainly, back me again.
But most firms are looking for multi-billion dollar exits, and a $200 million exit, it doesn’t really move the needle for most of these firms. Right. So, that’s just a bit of a side note. Why did I sell the business? Because I looked out and everything was getting bigger and more consolidated.
And, NBC universal was owned by Comcast. Fox was sold to Disney. We were always the only independent, you look, you look on Hulu live, or you look on Sling and it’s CNBC [meant to say CNN], which is owned by AT&T it’s, MSNBC, which is owned by Comcast it’s. And, and, when I started the company, I felt a bit like I was running around with a BB gun and everybody else had, muskets, right.
And then over the course of four years, it began to feel like, I no longer had a BB gun. Maybe I had like a slingshot now because, we had, we had improved, but they had developed, extensive arsenals of weapons. Right. And so we, it, it was natural to link up with them. And it was also natural, with Altice, because they were exclusively news focused.
The other part of the portfolio is News 12, these hyper-local news stations. So the company had basically decided that they were going to be in telecommunications, broadband television, telephony, and news, and they weren’t going to be in dramas and comedies. And so this was the perfect kind of addition to that portfolio.
I had Altice as investors, I think for three to three years at that point. So they knew the company inside and out and it was the right time. And, also, I mean, COVID ended up coming as well too. Now I didn’t know COVID was coming, but I’m certainly lucky to have the support of a large corporate parent to kind of get through COVID.
Whereas I think that would have been unbelievably difficult as a standalone startup. So I can’t really claim that that factored into the decision, but I think it’s certainly made the decision more. Right. In retrospect,
Anthony Pompliano: [00:12:58] A lot of people in America, I don’t think know about Altice.
Jon Steinberg: [00:13:01] Yeah. Would you agree with that?
Actually, let me answer your question a little more about why I sold as well too, is that, I really think that, I’ve told Jessica Lessin this when she interviewed me is that media is really about, independent media companies is like drug discovery. you developing a drug.
You you’ve heard me say this before.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:13:20] No, but, I, I can already see where this is going and I like it. So keep going.
Jon Steinberg: [00:13:24] And so you develop a great drug. So let’s say Cheddar. We developed an amazing drug for, arthritis. Great arthritis drug. We had great scientists. We developed a great arthritis drug, blah, blah, blah.
Okay. Now we have a choice. We have to go through FDA trials. Now that’s going to cost cajillions of dollars. Then we need an entire pharmaceutical salesforce. Then we need an entire, production line to get this thing out there. And for most media companies trying to do that is a mistake. They’re literally reinventing the wheel and they’re reinventing the wheel when people already have a wheel.
And the only unique thing that they’ve really brought to the table is their unique, new drug that they did through R & D. And so that’s why it is the right decision for Morning Brew to sell to Business Insider for, what was the number quoted? $75 ?
Anthony Pompliano: [00:14:15] I think that is the alleged number. Yes.
Jon Steinberg: [00:14:17] What are they going to do? Build an entire salesforce, built an entire CMS, build a research division, build all these things that Axel Springer and Business Insider have? And look, the history of media companies, independent media companies is that they get too large. They’ve they’ve built up this infrastructure.
The infrastructure is not necessarily as doesn’t have the margins that the other people have incumbents have. And then there’s sort of. Too big, basically. I mean, that’s, that’s what happens when you get too big.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:14:47] Patrick Drahi, who I think owns Altice — he fascinates me because he’s a multi-billionaire, there are almost no interviews with him anywhere.
Jon Steinberg: [00:14:57] Yeah. I’m seeing him tomorrow for breakfast. I’ll tell him that you…
Anthony Pompliano: [00:15:00] You should tell him to come on the show for sure.
Jon Steinberg: [00:15:02] Unlikely.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:15:04] I figured it’s unlikely. What, what’s it been like? Or kind of, what have you learned from being around somebody like that? Who I think just most people look as they look.
He’s built this amazing, very large, company, obviously one that you found attractive to kind of partner with and, and go work with, kind of anything there in terms of just the way that the company operates or Patrick specifically.
Jon Steinberg: [00:15:23] So he’s a genius, and I would say the culture and most of my interaction, I’m privileged to be able to interact with Patrick on a routine basis.
But my boss is Dexter Goei who’s the CEO of Altice. And Dexter’s been working with Patrick for a very long time, I think over a decade or something like that. And the way Patrick and Dexter work is, they’re very calm. They’re very steady and they have a sense of humor, about everything, right.
And they know their numbers cold and that’s basically, and also, they understand that that most businesses are operated inefficiently. And there is margin to be derived from almost from almost any business. Right. And so that steadiness, that facility with my numbers, I mean, I’m going to see Patrick tomorrow. I’m walking in there. This is just a casual catch-up. I’m walking in there with. A stack of printouts like this and my laptop, because like, he’s just going to ask me some number, And, and it’s always a little bit like, an exam, but, I do well in school and I know how to study. So,
Anthony Pompliano: [00:16:31] I love it. What’s the biggest focus for you right now, at, as you kind of scale the business.
Jon Steinberg: [00:16:37] We have two advertising products that I’m really trying to grow. We have the local advertising business, which is selling, spots throughout our footprint on our cable system and that that’s, a very steady business that’s doing quite well.
And then we have the emerging products, which are basically the Cheddar product, sponsored content. And we’re also selling, we have an advanced advertising division that allows us to sell national advertising that can be targeted and have conversion track by IP. So I would say. Innovation in that. I would say that from the content standpoint, News 12, we’ve done an extensive kind of rebrand and re graphic and re modernization of that over the past few, over the past year, really.
And then with Cheddar, trying to make, figure out these FAST systems, figuring out which ones are going to be the biggest, making sure that we’re there, making sure we have the channel position, we launched on Tubi. We launched Cheddar and News 12 on Tubi, last week, which is kind of amazing.
I’ve been pushing the Tubi folks for a long time to do news. Cause I felt like it was one of the giant platforms that didn’t have news. But I’d like our content to be everywhere on these fast systems. Even the ones like Peacock that haven’t put us on yet.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:17:46] So, before we get into kind of a couple of topics, I’m just gonna throw out and you mind dump on us, your thoughts.
What about Netflix and Peacock? these other platforms, do you see them eventually adding news and you guys being a contender there, or do you think like maybe a Netflix just they’ll never get into anything?
Jon Steinberg: [00:18:04] Somebody held a thing with Reed Hastings. I think one of my professors and I asked a question, and I’ve had two interactions with Reed in the past.
However many years, one was at DLD in Munich. And then the last was this one, a few weeks ago, in both cases, I asked him, when are you going to do news? And in both cases, he told me, no plans. Right. And so I don’t see them doing it. Peacock has some news on it. Yeah, they have, they have the NBC Universal news on it, whether or not they open it up to other people’s news is yet to be seen.
Amazon. We have a great relationship with Amazon on the Fire platform has Fire News. So it’s a dedicated square on if you have a Fire Stick and we’re one of the news providers there. So some ways that’s an alternative to, and so, and yeah, Disney+ I don’t really see doing it. I mean, look, it bums me out.
It bums me out that. Netflix and Disney+ like two of the biggest and fast growing, don’t have news. What bums me less is if they decided tomorrow to put on news, they would do one of two things. Either Disney would decide they were only doing ABC. Okay. Or if they decide to let other people on, we would definitely get the phone call because we always get the phone call when people decide they want to put news on because we have a high quality product and it’s free.
And that’s a, that’s, that’s a winning combination, for people that need news content
Anthony Pompliano: [00:19:22] Makes sense. You’ve been live video at Cheddar for a long time. Talk to me about audio. Do you guys rip the audio from the videos and put them out as podcasts. Have you thought about podcasts kind of what’s going on there?
Jon Steinberg: [00:19:35] So we do the audio simulcasts we do on Tunein and a few others. We don’t get very good statistics on it. I don’t really know what the listenership is. Podcasts I’ve completely stayed away from, it’s too competitive. It is personality driven, and you either need a big personality that draws an audience or true crime. And those seem to me to be like the two categories that really work right.
And, we, Cheddar was always an ensemble type thing, always more of a news type thing. And we don’t have, the stars is really the wrong word. We don’t have the people like Barstool has that are able to really gather loyal followings kind of by personality.
And so that would make a podcast, I think very hard for us to do
Anthony Pompliano: [00:20:26] Newsletters?
Jon Steinberg: [00:20:28] We bought Need2Know, which was kind of like a smaller version of The Skimm. I think it has three or 400,000 subs. it does okay for us, but, look, you can only do one thing when you’re a startup, really, not that we’re startup anymore.
Now we’re part of this larger thing, but really video has been my sole focus for the past four and a half years. And I think is going to be my sole focus for the, for the coming future. I think that we’re the best at live video. I think that we have made it our sole focus. And I think that that’s what we’re going to continue to focus certainly for another year or two.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:21:01] What about outside of you guys? Right. So you guys say with live video, but what do you just think about kind of the rise of newsletters and in this whole kind of, phenomenon that’s going on?
Jon Steinberg: [00:21:09] Yeah, I mean, you and I have talked about this before. I think the amazing thing about the newsletter thing is that if you’re a writer, and you’re part of a media company, and you can go sign up a thousand people at a hundred dollars a year.
That’s pretty incredible, right. And I’m not sure how many people can do that, but look, you just, Casey from The Verge just left to go he’s on Substack.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:21:32] He is.
Jon Steinberg: [00:21:33] Yeah. And he’s going to probably make more money than he makes at The Verge. And he’s probably going to have a better lifestyle and make more money and, and own a hundred percent of what he creates.
And so, I think it’s really disruptive to, to printed, to print journalism, print to digital journalism.
Anthony Pompliano: Absolutely. What about, other forms of video? So not live video, but whether it’s kind of the tick-tock and short form type stuff, whether it’s more of like the blog and the longer form stuff on YouTube, but just things that aren’t live news-based. How do you think about that?
Jon Steinberg: We do some explainers on YouTube and they do, they do plenty well. There hasn’t been a lot of innovation there really, and Tik Tok. We were really big on Tik Tok for awhile.
We still have a million followers on Tik Tok. Cheddar does our gadget videos there. Monetization really isn’t there, either and now for a long time, from my BuzzFeed days to my early Cheddar days, we were, we were going places where we could get growth and get the brand out there.
And it was exciting and it was the right thing for the company at the time. But now I’m just much more focused on the economics of these things. Does it make financial sense for us to be spending time on this? And so many of these platforms are still, are still nickels and dimes. If that, I mean, Tik Tok, isn’t even nickel and dimes.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:22:53] Yeah. All of these different platforms, are kind of benefiting from the rise of the creator. Right? I think that we’ve always thought about that as like, Oh, the YouTubers and people who had kind of more, creative type skills and they probably lack some of the business, interest in, scalability and skillset.
Now it almost feels like we’re getting the opposite. Right. We’ve got tons and tons of. Business minded folks who are starting to be able to build audiences because of these platforms, reducing the friction to doing that. You mentioned Barstool, there’s a couple of others that are kind of leaning into, this overlap between the creator or personality and, and audiences and monetizing it.
How do you kind of think through maybe not for you guys, but other media companies, is that something where they’re going to lean in hard on.
Jon Steinberg: [00:23:35] I think the way that you would do this is look, I’m reading the same articles. Everybody’s reading, the one that Taylor Lorenz at the New York times just put out about the Tik Tokers that are making millions of dollars and get free cars to free car leases from Triller and all, all this stuff.
And I think that it goes one of two ways either. My kids 10, 11 year olds — they love Charli D’Amelio like, that’s like favorite person. Right? And so I think it goes one of two ways basically. These uber stars on these short form platforms are able to continue to get influencer type sponsorships and do deals and stuff like that.
And if that happens, I think they will, some of them will choose to be rolled up into a company, not dissimilar from what we saw during, the, the MCNs and YouTube back in the day where all the YouTube stars got rolled up into these companies. And then there were various squabbles and it didn’t really work.
And then they really, they all decided to unbundle, it’s sort of interesting. I mean, it’s like Substack is basically the, the bundling of writers. With, with the Tik Tok stars, they’re all debundled and individuals and how they’re doing their influencer deals. And then the question is what makes sense to roll up and bundle into a company.
And I imagine somebody, if not already, we’ll take a pass and making a company basically out of Tik Tok stars.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:25:00] What about monetizing through non-advertising and non-subscription so subscription has become popular with things like Substack, right? For kind of emails. And that advertising’s a known thing.
What about things like, either, more endorsement type models, maybe even, joint ventures or physical products, like we’ve seen creators on YouTube who maybe can’t monetize very well on that platform. They’ve had to get creative. The large media companies almost use these creators as like R & D and just take the best practices and start to monetize in other ways as well
Jon Steinberg: [00:25:32] Who is the first creator that, that comes up with the next Allbirds, right?
Like that, that would be super interesting to see that happen. And we’ve seen all these DTC companies that are doing well that make a single product that kind of reduced the choice for the consumer, which is really compelling because I think people want less choice. They want to be told these are the shoes to get. Not, select from any number of these shoes. Right?
And, and so I, I think that’s a viable model. I think many of the other things you talked about are really kind of just advertising in, in another, in another way, word, basically sponsorships or brand. I mean, that’s all basically forms of advertising, but when you get right down to it, you basically have three avenues for monetizing media.
As far as I can tell, you’ve got here subscription, advertising, and e-commerce. The bloom is a little bit off of e-commerce. I mean, there were a bunch of media companies that went into it, but basically Amazon took down the affiliate payments that they were giving people. These e-commerce things typically have very low margin because selling physical products has very low margin, which is why there’s Amazon and basically nobody else.
But there may be this little carve out of these DTC high-end custom products that influencers may be able to get into and may make e-commerce and go. But look, advertising and subscription have been around for, hundreds, if not a thousand years, basically as the two major forms of media monetization.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:27:00] Yeah. I keep thinking about this idea of, Joe Rogan rather than have the sponsor Traeger grills. He should have just said, “Hey, I want the Joe Rogan grill.” It’s a Traeger grill with the Joe Rogan logo. He sells it through to his audience. Owns equity, gets a higher percentage of that. Just the ad dollars, or you even go to, take a DTC company like maybe Casper, right?
I don’t know their exact numbers, but somewhere where there’s very high cost of acquisition and you almost have them eventually get bought by like The Rock. And The Rock says, “Hey, this is the best mattress I work out hard. And then I go to sleep every night” and you can drastically reduce the CAC.
Jon Steinberg: [00:27:34] I wonder how much of the economics of that are already captured through advertising and through referral and you at least think about Joe Rogan. So I started listening to Joe Rogan, only two weeks ago just because I kind of want it.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:27:45] What episodes you listened to?
Jon Steinberg: [00:27:47] I listened to the one where he was talking to a psychologist about narcissism. Then I listened to the episode where he was talking to Colin Quinn.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:27:55] So you haven’t listened to any of the super, super, out there ones?
Jon Steinberg: [00:27:59] No. I just want to listen to the most current ones. Right. And, and I had listened to parts of Elon Musk one way back when. I was shocked by how many live read commercials he had at the beginning. He has like seven minutes, eight minutes, I mean, right?
But what I recognized is, oh, all you have to do is just skip to the, you just drag the slider and you don’t have to listen to eight minutes of sponsors. So I don’t know how sustainable that really is. And I mean, his, his podcasts are super long, so I’ve never listened through, but there’s no commercials in the middle.
But he’s using referral codes. So, I mean, I guess most people don’t skip the commercials and I guess he’s getting great brands to do this stuff with him. Yeah.
I mean, look, it, it is fascinating, right? I mean, everybody, who’s a loyal listener knows you can just hit the fast forward button, you hear the music, right.
And then you kind of just undo it and that’s where the episode is going to start. But again, how many people actually fast forward but back to what you’re saying, of the grills, right. Which is, I believe he’s capturing the vast majority of the economics of his contribution to what’s the name of the grill company?
Anthony Pompliano: [00:29:07] Traeger grills is his big, one of his big sponsors — we’re running ads for them right now. Look at us.
Jon Steinberg: [00:29:12] Yes. I, I think that he’s, he’s capturing the value that he’s creating for Traeger because they’re probably paying him a very high referral per grill. I’m not sure in going through the trouble of buying or owning the grill company or starting the grill company would really work.
Although, ironically, we’re talking about grills and, George Foreman, I suspect that the George Foreman grill worked out very well for him. I mean, he did it for many years, obviously it must’ve been working. And, maybe it’s a little bit of experimentation of both. I mean, I do think there are categories that are super cheap to produce in where brand is really important and Rogan could be very successful.
Cause he’s also all about like, health and martial arts and things like that as well too. And he does a commercial. He, one of his commercials is for a, a supplement or greens type drink, I bet a lot of people would buy Joe Rogan, vitamins.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:30:03] He actually is an equity owner in a, in a company that,
Jon Steinberg: [00:30:07] Natural greens or something. I think it was,
Anthony Pompliano: [00:30:10] Oh, maybe he ran an athletic greens,
Jon Steinberg: [00:30:11] athletic greens, athletic greens,
Anthony Pompliano: [00:30:13] So he’s not an equity owner there. As far as I know he’s got it. He’s got it for company. The areas that you’re most interested in outside of live television. We can talk about all these different things. Like where do you see the biggest opportunity?
If you were going to go restart, a new media company today, where did you look?
Jon Steinberg: [00:30:33] The only media ideas I have kicking around in my head are the media ideas for my job, really, just because it kind of sucks up. So one only has so much media frontal lobe, right?
I think financial services, there’s a lot to be done in financial services. And I think that you’ve seen parts of the stack already being taken apart and being done by startups like Lemonade for insurance or Robinhood for stock trading or Acorns for saving. And I think that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.
I think that there is, I was actually looking at, Wealthfront for the first time last night, a friend of mine pulled up Wealthfront because, wealth management is one of the areas it’s kind of interesting to me. And I was surprised by sort of how basic it was and how many things you couldn’t do.
And so to me, I think that we’ll see every type of insurance and every type of financial product startup. And that’s much earlier innings, I think, than what we’ve seen in media.
The other thing I’ll tell you is, I bought a used car over the summer through Carvana and, I can’t imagine ever going back to buying a car any other way? I mean, so, that’s an example too, of just, just how much things could be done online and differently and in a modern fashion.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:31:48] So, I had a, one of the founders of , which was bought by a Carvana come on. And this week I’ve recorded three podcasts where the guest mentioned buying a car on Carvana this year.
Jon Steinberg: [00:32:04] The selection is not even that good. Like the selection is not that good. I wanted to pick up truck and like, they only had like a handful that fit like low mileage and what I wanted and the super cab and all that type of stuff. So I could fit the kids in it, but they make it so easy. And there’s no fighting over the price.
The price is set. You can go and check the blue book to make sure that it’s, it’s within range and it is. And I had gone, I had gone to a dealership before, and I was immediately, arguing with the guy over price. It didn’t make any sense. And it’s a far better experience. I mean, I can’t imagine why anyone would do anything other than buy a car online.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:32:45] It makes sense. You’ve been a heavily involved in the startup world and in investing, what are some of the other themes that you find interesting right now, or that you’re looking to invest in?
Jon Steinberg: [00:32:55] So I don’t really invest that much. It’s very rare that I do investment for me. I love operating and I find investing to be really frustrating because I just want to take the steering wheel,
And I think that like, so I don’t in the few things that I’ve invested in, but mostly it’s a relatively uncomfortable thing for me. So I like, personal finances, super interesting. Connected fitness. I don’t think is tapped out yet. Peloton and Mirror, are great and are big, but I don’t think they’re the only ones that can come into that.
I think that that’s a mega trend. That’s here to stay. I see. I think that there will be more FAST TV services. I don’t think we’re done with that yet. I don’t think there’s enough of them. And I think that there’ll be customized to different interests in lights. Coffee recently. I’ve experimented with coffee.
There’s there’s two coffee startups that interest me. I’m not an investor in either. They’re just interesting. One is Jot coffee, which is super concentrated coffee. Then you just put another, the other is this thing called Cometeer, which is frozen. It comes frozen. The coffee pods come frozen.
You boil a cup of water. You put the coffee pod into it. That’s that’s
Anthony Pompliano: [00:34:01] You a big coffee drinker?
Jon Steinberg: [00:34:04] Yeah. I’m a big coffee drinker. Yeah. I even have a coffee tattoo.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:34:10] Well, those who are just listening we’re about to see a coffee tattoo. Oh. He legitimately has a coffee tattoo
Jon Steinberg: [00:34:16] I’ve got a coffee tattoo . And then that’s scotch. Although, although I’m not drinking now I am doing like the dry October
Anthony Pompliano: [00:34:28] How many cups of coffee do you have a day?
Jon Steinberg: [00:34:33] I’ve ebbed and flowed over time because my doctors want me to have less. But I have three, four cups of coffee a day.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:34:40] All right. This is a really important thing. Like, like literally breaks friendships. Are you an iced coffee drinker?
Jon Steinberg: [00:34:47] And I saw your tweet about that. I saw your tweet about that.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:34:49] You drink iced coffee.
Jon Steinberg: [00:34:51] I drink ice coffee.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:34:51] Do you drink ice coffee in the winter?
Jon Steinberg: [00:34:53] Yeah, of course. All right. I think that basically ice coffee is the afternoon beverage.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:35:00] Oh, do you go hot coffee in the morning and iced coffee in the afternoon?
Jon Steinberg: [00:35:02] Yeah. I need to warm myself up. I need to warm up my, my chili bones in the morning. Like I need a hot coffee. I do, I do believe that consuming a cold beverage on a cold day in the morning. I walk my daughter to the school bus. Like, it’ll put it, it’ll put a chill in you. If you have an ice coffee first thing in the morning,
Anthony Pompliano: [00:35:18] I don’t think I know a single person who goes hot and cold in the same day
Jon Steinberg: [00:35:23] Do you have, do you use an ultra concentrate coffee? No, you should. You would love it.
I mean, it’s, it’s actually perfect for iced coffee. What are you brewing? Are you cold brewing?
Anthony Pompliano: [00:35:33] I get my ass up and I walk to Starbucks and I go and I order coffee and I want it.
Jon Steinberg: [00:35:38] You should be going to Dunkin’ my friend, my great partner Dunkin’ is where you should be going.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:35:42] Listen, Dunkin Donuts. Everyone knows America runs on Dunkin
Jon Steinberg: [00:35:46] American runs on Dunkin; Cheddar runs on Dunkin.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:35:49] All right. I asked the same two questions to everybody before we finish up. And then you get asked me one to finish it. First one is what’s the most important book you’ve ever read.
Jon Steinberg: [00:35:59] It’s a great quote, Atlas Shrugged, probably because I think that Ayn Rand is widely misquoted and misunderstood. And people basically use it as an excuse for being totally capitalistic and having no social welfare net. And, and I don’t, I don’t buy into any of that. I believe that society needs to take care of its population and the capitalism alone is not perfect.
So I’m not, I’m not like crazy on it, but the notion of the creator and the value that the inventor brings to society and the role that capitalism plays in moving a world forward really spoke to me. And so that book was sort of formative in kind of how I, I think I shaped my entrepreneurial mindset.
Catcher in the Rye I really liked a lot too. The idea that, that as we all come of age, there’s this discomfort and adjusting to the adult world and figuring out where one fits in.
Robert Caro’s book, the Power Broker about Robert Moses. About how cities get built — Robert Moses was a terrible person, but the book is an amazing book to understand how cities get built and the politics that go into them. And how complicated projects are executed.
I gave you three books, I guess those are all great ones.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:37:22] Second question. More fun. Aliens. Are you a believer or non-believer,
Jon Steinberg: [00:37:27] I’m a, I’m a complete believer. Why? Just because I think that if the universe is infinite, that the likelihood that we are the only intelligent life form is just, it’s just not possible.
It’s not possible. And, and I, and I do think that, when you, when you hear about the sightings that people have had and the experiences that people have had. There’s a striking similarity in close encounters of the third kind. There’s a striking similarity in all of this stuff.
So, but, I tend to be more open-minded I’m religious, I’m Jewish. I believe in God. I believe that there are things that happen that are outside of our control and that there are forces in the universe that we don’t understand. And so I think that alien sort of plays into that. The other possibility is that we are all in a, in a, in a terrarium or a fish tank on an alien’s counter.
Right? I mean, when you have pets, like my cat, my cat’s understanding of the world is very, very strange. She’s in this, she’s an indoor cat. Her universe is this apartment and her other universe used to be a different apartment when we moved. I mean, how does my cat possibly…my cat doesn’t even bother trying to process that.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:38:48] Yeah. So I start asking the alien question, because one night I was laying in bed and I had this really intelligent epiphany, which was, do you think aliens have pets? Like you have a cat. Right. But like if the aliens showed up or they showed up with like multiple species and, and there’s, pets involved,
Jon Steinberg: [00:39:09] Well, where my thought first went to is do they have livestock?
Do they have working animals and animals that they breed for food? And the likelihood is that they are more advanced than us, and they’ve probably already moved off of an animal based diet. They probably are on only a plant-based diet. So I would suspect that the aliens show up without pets or livestock traveling with them.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:39:37] That’s a contrarian view there, my friend. All right. What question you got from me to finish this up?
Jon Steinberg: [00:39:42] Who’s the most interesting person that you’ve ever interviewed.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:39:45] The most interesting person I’ve ever interviewed. So interesting. It’s hard. Cause it’s, cause everyone finds different things interesting. But the person that I think, was the most misunderstood and I walked away and I said, I could talk to that person for hours and hours and hours and like never get tired of talking to her. Is Cathy Wood from Ark Invest. I’ve done two interviews with her. The first one was like $300 Tesla stock price. She was giving the whole innovation story and she was getting hammered by everyone and you never know, like when people go on television and stuff, you’re kind of like, “hey, do they, how, how much do they believe what they’re saying?”
And, and kind of what’s that conviction look like? And, I remember coming out of the first conversation being like, That woman really understands technology trends really understands. Innovation really has kind of that independent thinking and first principles thinking. and the second time we did it, Tesla had run.
So everyone can kind of shut up about that. And now that we’re onto the next thing, saying that she was wrong on, but I think that it’s fascinating to find somebody who’s had a very long storied career, and reached a point where like, she’s probably just as hungry now as she always was, and just enjoys playing the game.
Right. And so it was just like all those little pieces to it. She’d probably be the answer.
Jon Steinberg: [00:41:01] Good answer.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:41:02] All right. Where can people find you on the internet?
Jon Steinberg: [00:41:04] JonSteinberg on Twitter.
Anthony Pompliano: [00:41:06] All right, we’re gonna have to do this again in the future. I think, I feel like, maybe I’m going to have to come back with like a coffee tattoo or something myself now too, iced coffee tattoo.
All right. We’ll do it again in the future.
Thanks for the time.