Jon Steinberg is the founder and CEO of Cheddar, a new video media company focussed on covering the most innovative products, technologies, and services.
“I have been following Jon Steinberg on LinkedIn for a few years now. His philosophy of defying the conventional has influenced all of us into thinking differently. His style of seeing stories from a different lens inspired me and team into DKODING the other side of a story.”Deepak Kaistha , CEO & Founder | DKODING Media
SERVING THE PRESENT WITH THE SLICES OF HISTORY
Triumphing over the fake
Being at the right place at the right time helps. Especially if you have a microphone with a cartoonish looking lump of cheese and with the word “Cheddar” in hot pink letters. And that’s how Trump spotted Steinberg.
So it all started when Donald Trump gave his first press conference as president- he supposedly declined to take questions from the veteran reporter, Jim Acosta of CNN, describing the network as “fake news.” But as luck would have it, instead Trump called on a man who had the mic with the word Cheddar on it.
That man was Jon Steinberg. The founder and CEO of a new video media company with big dreams and a quirky, unusual name- Cheddar. Jon Steinberg asked Donald Trump a sober question on the incoming administration’s economic policies. But the more important question that comes to mind is- How did Cheddar TV get a coveted seat at the press conference? And this is what Steinberg had to say in one of his interviews- “Because I’m relentless”.
Intensity Intensified with time
Steinberg’s startup Cheddar aimed at millennials. He has been broadcasting its business news programming over the internet for subscription services such as Sling TV and streaming some of its segments live on Twitter and Facebook.
According to Steinberg, the former president and COO of BuzzFeed and former CEO of Daily Mail North America, Cheddar already has close to a million viewers each day- which is a laudable number.And Steinberg has never shied away from saying that Cheddar has plans to eclipse CNBC’s viewership and the main goal is to finally replace the biggie CNN. Very few leaders display this kind of confidence and with such intensity.
Waltzing his way into Walt Disney
And if we go a little more back in time, then Disney was a witness to the same assertiveness and intensity from Jonathan Steinber.
In the year 1992, Disney was looking for entrepreneurs who had a passion for computers and wanted them to join “Imagineering”. It was Disney’s research and development arm. Former R&D Director Trevor Bryant had stated that little did he know that on his way of discovering highly qualified applicants, he would meet a genius.
The interview process was not easy as the applicants would have to answer some increasingly difficult computer programming questions.
The unusual applicant
Bryant received a letter from an applicant who seemed to fit the bill. His name – Jonathan Steinberg. In the letter, Steinberg wrote that he was interested in working for Disney, he also mentioned his computer programming skills and why he was apt for the job.
Old at 15
When Steinberg applied, he was only 15 years old. But to counter the age factor, he ended his application in these words- “That shouldn’t keep you from hiring me,” the teenager wrote at the end of the letter.
His parents were called the next day. Not it wasn’t to complain, if that’s what you are thinking.
Disney went on to hire Steinberg. He worked at Disney as a summer intern and there he analyzed the video game industry. He was given a task and Steinberg took it very seriously.
As the summer ended, Steinberg’s assignement ended too. He had to submit is findings to Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who later went on to investing more in video games.
Steinberg went to Woodrow Wilson School. It is reported that there he was much fascinated with sociology and economics. And it is during this time, he learnt about bringing a product to market not in a vacuum, but in an environment of human behaviour. Products need an audience, just launching it in the market is no guarantee that a product will be successful.
After making games a property, Steinberg moved on to another property
After Princeton, Steinberg moved to San Francisco. This is where he got an opportunity to work with billionaire real estate developer Jerry Speyer.
He is the one who founded an automated building services company called iBuilding which was clearly way ahead of its time.
Steinberg’s next stop was at the Columbia Business School. And then he joined BuzzFeed. He was the 15th employee of BuzzFeed. And at this time it is said that “One of the things that has been a hallmark for Jon is seeing opportunity in platforms,” says Weinberg, a business writer.
The Buzzy Bee
Steinberg worked at BuzzFeed for 5 years. There were just 15 employees in the year 2010. Then came the shorter stint – Steinberg became the CEO of DailyMail.com. What’s really courageous is that after achieving so much, Steinberg started a TV Network.
The mousetrap for millennials has the best cheese- Cheddar
The landscape of media was set to change. Cheddar Inc was launched
in 2016. It was a new media company which had a clear mission and vision – and without mincing words Cheddar wanted to become the CNBC for millennials. The scenario was that traditional media was losing its younger audience. Steinberg realised that time had come to reinvent traditional TV.
But it is a known fact that millennials adore entertainment. So it was not about offering the young gen a parallel linear viewing universe but instead it was imperative to offer them an alternate one. Millennials would need to be engaged and the answer was live programming.
The program was as different as chalk and cheese
The programming needed funding. So Steinberg came up with a different model. Cheddar sometimes featured corporate sponsors – and it was unusual. It has anchors sipping from Dunkin’ Donuts cups or looking up stocks on Fidelity’s trading app while on air.
And as the analysis goes it was not about selling spots to advertisers and brands. It was about looking for long-term relationships where programming is underwritten in advance.
How Cheddar improved the flavour of news
In one of the interviews Steinberg stated that this is what he enjoys the most- when Cheddar viewers tell him they learned something from his broadcasts.
“I like informing and educating people,” Steinberg says. If that means waving white and pink Cheddar-branded microphones to get their attention, so be it.
The victory is in numbers
Steinberg estimates- CNBC’s average minute audience peaks at around 150,000 viewers — and only about 30,000 to 40,000 of them are below the age of 54. “And CNBC does like a billion dollars in revenue!
Cheddar is money
Sometimes we should all listen to our gut feeling. It tells us what we need to do. And that’s what Steinberg did. One day he thought to himself – ‘That’s the business I want to be in’.
Steinberg wanted to be in a business where you make billion dollars a year! “And to achieve such big numbers- you need to get around 40,000 people who are not residing in Florida.
Cheddar- making news!
Cheddar broadcasts live from the trading floor of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), NASDAQ, WeWork in Los Angeles, the Flatiron Building in New York City and the White House.
Cheddar has two live video news-networks namely ‘Cheddar Business’ and ‘Cheddar News’. Cheddar Business which started with the company’s advent in April 2016 is a channel for financial news. Cheddar news is a newer channel started April 2018 for the specific purpose of general news.
All this is available to the audience on video platforms like the cheddar app, Amazon Prime, Sling TV, Facebook live, YouTube TV, Hulu, Snapchat and Pluto TV. It is available on 60% of smart TVs in the US.
The company has reached a point where it has many investors which include- Lightspeed Venture Partners, Raine Ventures, Comcast Ventures, Goldman Sachs, Liberty Global, AT&T, Amazon, Antenna Group, The New York Stock Exchange , Ribbit Capital, Altice USA, 7 Global Capital, and Dentsu Ventures.
Cheddar- the game is all in the name
We were curious how Steinberg came up with the name. And we got the answer in one of his interviews. He said that he had struggled with the name for a long time. His designer friend has discouraged him from using words like ‘news’ and ‘business’.
Steinberg came up with Cheddar-Cheese is funny, and “Cheddar” as we all know also means money. Steinberg was lucky to get the domain name and he managed to get all the intellectual property concerned with it. He said that he knew one thing- people would either like Cheddar or think it’s stupid. And Steinberg was comfortable with it- as it stands out and is memorable. We think the same too. And we are glad he chose Cheddar.
Cheddar- Up, Close and Live
Steinberg sat in the lobby of The Westin in Times Square and dreamt of creating Cheddar and getting it on Sling. And the rest is history. Steinberg loves Sling as they were the first ones to bet on Cheddar.
A quote to note
“The Facebook content is overwhelmingly product reviews. That’s the only thing that works on Facebook. It’s Facebook’s problem that they made a very square box that only one type of content fits in…Whatever traffic [Facebook] sends you, it’s just not real. I would do the weird product review videos for marketing.” –Jon Steinberg
Cheddar – Innovation wins
It doesn’t surprise us one bit that in the year 2017, Cheddar was named as one of the ten most innovative companies in media.