The 60-second interview: Sharon Waxman, founder of The Wrap
CAPITAL: TheWrap just launched a syndicated news wire service, WrapWire. Tell me a little about the new wire service. Was there a fundamental problem that you were trying to solve or is this more of a value add for TheWrap?
WAXMAN: It's definitely a value add. We had really been focused on growing the core site. We've just kind of taken off in the past year. The logical thing with that traffic taking off is really to build a much more robust content offering...it's a logical thing that as the brand is growing we think about ways of monetizing it. Our content has been locked up exclusively with Reuters for the past four years so we made a strategic decision. When we started it, idea of that partnership was to be able to have more global reach and branding with a really respective partner because we were really small at that time and really new. We've grown beyond that and our brand is able to stand on its own. We essentially operate like a wire, we report news in real time and there's a real opportunity to provide the kind of coverage newspapers, radio stations need but don't have the resources to do themselves.
To be honest, I've always wanted to do this since day one, but [the partnership with Reuters] was kind of a no-brainer when you're starting up. It was a big decision to end it. I have to take a deep breath, but I think it's really exciting to be able to take that content that we're creating every day and create a much bigger revenue stream.
CAPITAL: In your post announcing the partnership back in 2010 you wrote that the agreement was a sign of how much TheWrap has accomplished. What does the end of that partnership and the start of WrapWire signify?
WAXMAN: I think it signifies that we're grown-ups now and we're out of the adolescent phase. We're a full blown media company that has the ability to sell its content on its own. It's the big boy pants that we're putting on. We worked really hard for a year to get [the Reuters] deal. We were really small...that's the story of the evolution of the site.
CAPITAL: Have you guys announced any initial launch partners for WrapWire?
WAXMAN: No not yet. We will be.
CAPITAL: You recently announced that TheWrap beat both Variety and Deadline in web traffic last month, what do you attribute that to? What is TheWrap doing differently that is attracting these four or so million readers away from these other entertainment publications?
WAXMAN: That's another fun piece of news we got to announce, that's really just consistent with what's been [happening] in the past year. We're really just trying to reinforce [that] there's nothing we're doing differently now than what we were doing in December. Last year, we went from one and a half to two to three to four to five to seven [unique vistors a month]. You never know if you'll be able to sustain it when you have a spike that extreme and we have. I think it's just momentum you get a certain momentum going and you're able to sustain it and we're definitely headed to eight million and by the end of the year 10 million unique readers.
CAPITAL: You spent several years as a foreign correspondent in both the Middle East and Europe covering the war in Iraq, the Palestinian intifada for which you were nominated for a Pulitzer and then you moved to L.A. To cover Hollywood and finally founded TheWrap in 2009. Can you talk about what led to the jump from foreign reporting to Hollywood coverage and what sparked your interest in the topic area?
WAXMAN: It was a question of employment. At the time I couldn't get a full time job as a foreign correspondent. I'd been living in Paris as a freelancer, then a stringer, and then a contract writer at The Washington Post. It was at time in the mid '90s that newspapers were already starting to cut back on their foreign bureaus. I'd been trying to get a full-time position and then finally The Washington Post offered me a job in California where I never intended to go. I looked at my husband and said, 'What do you think? California?' They didn’t actually hire me to cover Hollywood. They hired me as a style writer. It was really premium feature writing that was in a really voice-y, atittude-y, sassy section.