Jason Feifer | Creating Content That Builds Relationships and Tactics for Embracing Change

Jason Feifer is the Editor-in-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine. He is also a podcast host, author, keynote speaker, and startup advisor. He started his career as a community newspaper reporter before transitioning to freelance writing, later working for larger magazines including Men’s Health, Fast Company, and Maxim. 

Jason is the host of the Build for Tomorrow podcast and author of Build for Tomorrow: An Action Plan for Embracing Change, Adapting Fast, and Future-Proofing Your Career. His goal is to help people seize new opportunities and become more resilient and adaptable in a world of constant change.

Jason Feifer, the Editor-in-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, joins John Corcoran in this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast to talk about creating content that engages audiences and builds strong relationships. Jason also shares tips for adapting to change, how to build a successful media business, and the value of providing customized user experiences.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Jason Feifer’s entrepreneurial and writing background
  • How writing has impacted Jason’s career
  • The evolution of the media industry
  • How to provide a customized user experience
  • Should journalists determine the type of content to create?
  • Jason talks about the butter and margarine story from his book, Build for Tomorrow, and similar modern brand battles
  • The peers Jason respects

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. And you know, those of you have listened to us before you know that we feature interesting, smart founders and entrepreneurs for all kinds of companies. We’ve had Netflix, we’ve got to Kinkos’, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, go check out the archives, we’ve got all kinds of great interviews in there as well. And of course, this episode is brought to you by my company, Rise25, where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcasts and content marketing. And you can learn all about what we do at Rise25.com. My guest here today, is Jason Feifer. He’s the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine. He’s also a podcast host, and author, keynote speaker, startup advisor, and just a nonstop optimism machine. That is literally in his bio. And he is truly optimistic about the future. He’s also the host of the Build for Tomorrow podcast and author of the new book by the same name Build for Tomorrow: An Action Plan for Embracing Change, Adapting Fast, and Future-Proofing Your Career. And, Jason, such a pleasure to have you here today. And I want to start, I love talking to people about what they did what they were like as a kid and how that shaped who they are today. You grew up in Florida. I love to ask people about, you know, were they doing lemonade stands or things like that. You said you painted rocks. Tell me about this rock painting business.

Jason Feifer 1:55

Yeah, so the rock painting business wasn’t that significant? I have to admit, but it was when you had asked me before we started recording for my first entrepreneurial venture. That was the thing that I came up with. So me and my friend Lauren, I don’t know we were maybe 10 or something that we grew up in suburban South Florida. And there are a lot of nice smooth rocks, I’m sure they’re not natural. They’re trucked in from somewhere. But we just started taking them painting them, and then trying to sell them door to door. And I don’t know that we sold them anywhere past our own families. But I will tell you that as I’ve been thinking about this in the moment or two, since I told you the rock thing. And now here we are actually recording the most significant early thing that I did was that I started writing in in elementary school, I was making little comic books, then I was starting to write short stories by high school I was actually writing for an audience I had started writing for this local music magazine that I started finding music stores called Inc 19. And that was really my very first significant experience writing for for an audience was going to star shows and interviewing the musicians and then writing these reviews. And it made a big impact on me the the ability that I discovered, by writing for this publication that by writing doors opened, that people let me into their shows and into their lives in some way. They sat down and talk to me simply because I was going to listen and then relay what they had to say. And that was an incredible power for a long time in my career. In the early days, I came up with this line that I always said, which was that being a journalist means being able to talk to people, you wouldn’t normally talk to you about things you wouldn’t normally talk about. And that was an incredible power, particularly when I didn’t know what I wanted to focus on. And it was like the keys to the kingdom.

John Corcoran 3:48

I couldn’t agree more. I you know, did journalism in high school actually went to journalism camp during high school, which I joke is kind of like Bandcamp. But nerdier Yeah. And I loved it, it was so interesting to be able to talk to people and learn about them. It’s also a very entrepreneurial career, especially these days, you know, my father was a journalist his entire career. And you kind of have to go from gig to gig and network and get connections and talk a little bit about how that shaped you have a

Jason Feifer 4:19

very, very like that. The very first things that I did in my career, I think about a lot because they remind me so much of what entrepreneurs have to do. I’ll give you an example. The first job I ever took out of college was at a tiny little newspaper called The gardener news in Gardner, Massachusetts, North Central Massachusetts, the paper at the time, 2000 whatever this was to had a circulation of 6000. I don’t know what it is now if it even exists. And I was so frustrated there because I had these big ambitions. And I was not meeting them. I wasn’t getting anywhere near them. And I didn’t know they were abstract at that time. I was 21 22 I just knew that I wanted to write For a lot of people, and I wanted to do work that I thought was important, and writing about local, middle school dances just didn’t feel like that. And after about a year or so of getting very grumpy about this, I came to this realization realization was that I cannot wait for someone to come to me, like, I can’t just do a good job at this tiny little newspaper and expect the New York Times to read it and say, Oh, my God, this kid writing about the local middle school dance, we gotta get that kid covering the White House, he’s amazing. That’s never gonna happen, like never. So I needed to go to them, I needed to go to prove to people that I could work at their level, or at least that I had the ability to learn how to do that. And so what I did was I quit, I quit that job. And I sat in my bedroom for nine months in this tiny dumpy apartment next to a graveyard in central rural Central Massachusetts. And I started cold pitching editors. And the reason I did that was because I was just thinking, what actually does it mean to get myself in front of people who will not hire me? And so I thought, what’s the lowest lift? What the answer in my industry, at least is, in the media, the industry that I occupied at the time media was freelancing, you can freelance can be functionally independent contractor and try to pitch an individual story to an individual editor for an individual $500. And they will maybe take it. And that’s how I really got my start. That’s how I got into the Washington Post and into the Boston Globe, and the Associated Press, and these, these very first building blocks of my career, it was all about not sitting around waiting for someone to come to me. But for me, figuring out what it meant to go to them

John Corcoran 6:33

is interesting. This is the 2000s, when you know Craigslist, and newspapers are really being disrupted by the Internet. Yep, reflect back on how that has changed the industry that you are in, in journalism, and how publications need to be a little more scrappy, and a lot different than the way they were 20 years ago.

Jason Feifer 6:52

So it’s radically changed it and for the publications. I think the most important thing that publications have to wrap their heads around which they’re only very beginning to is that the business cannot be monetizing content anymore. It just can’t. And I hate the word content, but for lack of anything else. And the reason for that is because it’s diminishing returns, you’re fighting over a very small slice of a pie that is mostly being eaten by Google and Facebook. And the economics of it are basically churn out as much content as you can to just try to drive as many clicks as you can. And that doesn’t lead to good material, which then just devalues your brand. And it’s just a spiral downward. I believe that for a business, like media to survive, it’s going to have to think about what is the purpose of the thing that has always been doing? And then how to build a model around that new purpose. So for me, this is I think that everybody in business should always be asking this question, what is it for? Literally, in my book build for tomorrow? I have a like, it’s like a blank page that just says in big letters, what is it for so that you can tear it out and hang it on your wall? Because it’s the most important question that you can ask. And in media, what is it what is content for decades ago, it was for monetization, you run ads against it, you can sell subscriptions to it now it’s for relationships, full stop, that when you publish something, that people who read it feel good about you, they trust you. It’s hard to monetize the content itself. But I think that once you build that relationship, that relationship lasts a whole lot longer than the individual set of eyeballs on that individual article. Now the question is, what kind of products and services can you develop that people will pay you for? Because they trust you because of the content? That has to be the way that people think? And if it’s not, I just don’t think that there’s a future for them.

John Corcoran 8:46

So that’s a really interesting point. Now, a couple of your stops along the way, you worked at Men’s Health magazine, you worked at Boston Magazine, now an entrepreneur, obviously. So are you saying that if it’s Boston Magazine, maybe you are doing tours of Boston, if it’s Men’s Health magazine, maybe you’re helping you know your readers to be healthy in some way, if it’s entrepreneur, maybe it’s events that bring entrepreneurs together and help them with their company beyond just the content that you produce? Is that what you’re saying? Yeah, that’s

Jason Feifer 9:13

exactly right. So if you’re Boston Magazine, I think that you should be doing tours you should be doing local events you should be the center of the community in that space not just producing a magazine The magazine is just the trust builder for this other business that addresses what is frankly at this point a wider need and in a bigger market if you’re Men’s Health you should I mean why why is there not a national chain of Men’s Health gyms Wouldn’t that make all the sense in the world? Yeah. Why why why does Why does Men’s Health not have a a fitness or weight loss consultancy what why why are people not feeling like they can get direct help from Entrepreneur from from from Men’s Health in similar with entrepreneur and these are the conversations that we’re having. Now we’re starting to build it out. Uh, can entrepreneur help somebody grow their business? Like literally? Can we provide a consultant? Can we? Can we be the place that helps people identify the franchise that’s right for them and then and then help broker that relationship? What can we do to directly help people, I really, really firmly believe in the power of relationships, more than the power of broadcast. And it’s what I’m doing in my own. I mean, I, in addition, to me, these are sort of complementary. But in addition to editor in chief of entrepreneur and all the work that I do with entrepreneur, I have these things on the side that are just mine. So my own fit, you know, social presence, my own newsletter,

John Corcoran 10:38

you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into it, I can tell you put a lot of content out there. Sorry, you got word again. But

Jason Feifer 10:44

yeah, I wish there was a better one. And the reason I don’t like it, by the way, it’s just because it’s, it just makes it sound like widgets, you know, I mean, people put people put months years into interviews, producing something, and then it’s just called content like, it’s next year, like a like an AI driven piece of crap that tells you what time the Superbowl is, and those can’t be the same thing. So So I are the center of the way that I produce my own stuff. And it’s easier for me to do this as an individual than as a, as an organization, attritional media company, but is really relationship. First, I’m producing Constant Contact, content, content, and ways for people to engage with me, then they’re going to reach out to me, then I will respond to literally everybody, which then just locks in, they’re feeling good about me for years. And now the question that I’m experimenting with and exploring is, well, what do you build on top of that? What’s the service that I can provide? That’s actually going to be monetizable. I mean, you know, there are things like speaking that I do a lot of that makes sense. But that’s limited and doesn’t scale as well. But I really, really believe that what people want and expect now because of the internet is direct connection, and customization. And that comes by building off of relationships, not by just producing something and trying to distribute it to as many people as possible. I mean, it’s still a business model. And entrepreneur and every other media organization still has that at the very heart of it. And that content really, really matters. But I think that as we think about the future, and what does it mean for a media company to exist? 10 20 years from now, this is how we have to start thinking. It’s an interesting point.