It’s been a busy year for the Logic. Founded by David Skok barely 12 months ago, the young startup has quickly made its mark, breaking stories and winning awards for its coverage of Canada’s innovation economy. Its investigation Selling off airports, major highways, utilities and Canada Post could net over $200 billion: Government report won them gold at the 2018 SABEW Awards announced in April, where it also picked up the top honour for editorial newsletter (and the Logic reporter Zane Schwartz took home the prize for Best Young Journalist).
Last week, word was out that the Logic was selling Postmedia a minority stake in the company in a deal which would see the two organizations partner on “various initiatives including content licensing, marketing projects and events.”
To Skok, an alum of both the Toronto Star and the Boston Globe as well as former Nieman Lab Fellow, the partnership marks an opportunity to get his newsroom’s groundbreaking work out to a mass audience and bolster the Logic’s subscription-driven business model.
Letter from the editor: The Logic in exclusive talks with Postmedia for minority investment and national distribution https://t.co/LlBLSvzPQM
— The Logic (@the_logic) May 22, 2019
J-Source spoke with Skok, the Logic’s editor-in-chief and CEO, about how the deal came about and what’s in store.
This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.
How the partnership came together
Andrew (Postmedia CEO Andrew MacLeod) and I were connected through a mutual friend and we met and it immediately became clear that there was a common interest in what we were doing. He really valued how we were doing it and what we were doing. And I’ll confess, I had no intent at the time to take on a strategic investor, but he said all the right things and built up a level of trust over a bunch of weeks that ultimately led us to go down this road.
A simple equation
From our perspective, we needed distribution and cash flow and from their perspective, they wanted to get into the subscription game. So it just worked. I think the key is minority investment and one of the main reasons for that is editorial independence. What we’re trying to build at the Logic is a journalism product that is worth paying for and that ultimately will succeed because of the work and the talented team of journalists that we have. It’s a very simple equation what we’re trying to do, which is if you believe in journalism, and you believe in journalists, and you give them the time and space they need to do great work, they will do great work and that great work will have value. Andrew understood that at the very beginning and so conversations were very easy from that point on.
We’re still going to work out the details. There’s a lot we’re going to iron out but we have a shared goal here, which is to grow the Logic. Every decision we make on what goes where and how it gets there will be made with that in mind, on both sides. This additional funding will allow us to increase our capacity to do more great journalism and as a result there will be more great journalism available for our subscribers. That doesn’t change. Our entire value proposition from day one has been, “let us put your subscription dollars towards our reporters,” and this just allows us to do even more of that work. Some of it may appear on Postmedia properties which is even better because it really magnifies our impact. I’m still a journalist at the end of the day, and from a journalistic perspective, there have been times when we’ve written some incredible stories and they haven’t had the reach that they deserve and so this gives the journalism the chance to have maximum impact. But having said that, if you’re a subscriber you’re still getting the benefits of our community, the benefits of our daily analysis and in-depth reporting and the benefits of our events and other things. It’s a win-win for everybody.
Focus on business model
I’ve been quite outspoken on this issue from day one, on how I felt about (the government’s planned) subsidy and providing recommendations for how I think it could have been more equitable, so I can’t say I’m surprised by how things are going. It’s not surprising to me that there is not universal praise for how things are being rolled out. Having said that, I’m running a business. And we are trying to turn journalism on its head as much as we can to show that there’s a path forward. With all honesty, at no point during any conversations with Postmedia or any other investor that I’ve had has this issue come up. It’s not on my radar. I don’t have time for it. We’re not building a business so that it can be sustained by government funding. We’re building a business so that it can sustain and grow the old-fashioned way, which is if you really want independent journalism, you have to be independent through financial sustainability. That’s it.
The future of tech, the future of Canada
We’re going to keep everything through the lens of what our overall mandate remains, which is if you care about the future of the country you should be reading the Logic, because we are ultimately covering the future of Canada. The innovation economy is far broader than just tech. So whatever we do to expand our newsroom will be done through that framing.
It’s very simple. And I haven’t figured out all the answers, but I have been doing this for 20 years. I’ve worked at large traditional newsrooms. I’m now working at a startup. There’s one consistent thing that I’ve noticed that works throughout my career, and that’s great journalism itself. That’s it. If you’re building anything today, you have to remember that your product isn’t what platform you’re on. It’s: “Are you doing great work?”