Former Wall Street Journal Reporter Jessica Lessin Launches $399/Year News Service For ‘Underserved’ Techies


According to Gigaom, former Wall Street Journal writer Jessica Lessin launched her subscription-only news site The Information this week, offering $39/month or $399/year access.

In Lessin’s inaugural ‘Letter from the Editor’ — the only article I was able to access without buying a subscription — she laid out a cursory case for the site’s existence, disparaging the ‘sensational headlines’ and ‘idle speculation’ of other major media outlets, and contending that technology professionals are “underserved” by the current journalistic landscape.

Setting out to report factual news is a fair, humble mission; too humble, in fact, to be worth $39/month. In comparison, The Wall Street Journal is currently running a $12/12 week-subscription special.  In trying to explain (and defend) the pricing logic, former Hulu executive Eugene Wei writes that “if you hear a price point and it sounds crazy, it’s not for you.” A good rule of thumb, perhaps — so who is The Information for, and if it’s such a high-end product, why is it running political cartoons?

Lessin told GigaOm that she admired Grant’s Interest Rate Observer as a model for thoughtful business analysis, as well as premium subscription research products like BI Intelligence ($499/year) or Gigaom Research ($299/month). A quick perusal of The Information front page, however, reveals more ‘feature/news’ stories than hardcore analysis, with headlines such as “Google’s Andy Rubin Pursues ‘Replicant’ Robots’ (“Google’s Andy Rubin confirmed Tuesday night that he is working on a robotics project.”)

News, of course, is not a premium product — consumers can find out about Andy Rubin’s robotics project from TechCrunch, VentureBeat, or any number of free web publications. So either I’m not seeing the full picture, or Lessin is not (yet) doing a good job executing on her editorial strategy for analysis, explication and thought leadership.

Business Insider speculates that Lessin will need between 1,800 and 2,000 subscribers to sustain the business, and to this end, her Silicon Valley connections may buffet her from the painful media-startup realities faced by, say, Paul Carr at NSFWCORP.* She is married to Facebook executive Sam Lessin, and Valleywag has reported on her vacations in Cyprus with Dave Morin, Brit Morin and other Silicon Valley superstars.

Conflicts of interest and questionable pricing aside, I actually am looking forward to seeing how Lessin develops The Information. The Wall Street Journal is as worthy a bootcamp as any for journalists cum entrepreneurs, and Lessin comes across as thoughtful and measured in her Gigaom interview. Best of luck, Jessica — we’ll be watching.



*Carr also has Silicon Valley connections, of course — they’re the only reason he was able to start the Las Vegas-based NSFWCORP, which effectively shut down last week. However, Carr was heavily intent on biting the hands that fed him — an independent bent that Lessin does not seem to share.