Can a future-of-work newsroom thrive inside a jobs site? Ladders is about to find out

To hear Ryan Sager tell it, classified ads aren't dead. They just need a little reimagination.

"What you've got here is a great 19th century newspaper model with classified ads, just with no news hole," said Sager, a longtime journalist with stints at Time, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post. "And we're here to be the news hole for this."

"This," as Sager explains, is Ladders News, a new publication for which he's serving as editorial director. Along with Editor-in-Chief Heidi Moore, a veteran financial journalist, Sager is trying to build a newsroom inside what's essentially a classified section built for the 21st century.

Since the company launched in 2003, Ladders has aimed to connect job seekers and employers for gigs with annual salaries that exceed $100,000. The jobs site, which allows users to plug in their area of expertise, their desired salary and job title, now boasts a slate of 348,000 new jobs and 17,000 employers. But it lacks what those old daily newspapers had in reams: News.

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With its official launch today, Ladders is changing that. Sager and Moore will head up a newsroom of about 10 that operates independently of the main company — no content marketing here — to produce daily journalism about the way work is changing around the world.

The upside for the parent company, hopefully, is that readers will be engaged enough to click over to a related "jobs" tab and sign up for a $25 monthly membership. But both say they haven't been given marching orders to convert news consumers to members.

Moore likened the strategy to one employed by business news colossus Bloomberg LP, which operates a consumer-facing news division and a highly lucrative financial data terminal business.

"You can kind of think about it as similar to the idea behind Bloomberg, right?" Moore said. "You built a product, and then there was a news interest that comes along with it. We're filling out the news hole around 'help wanted.'"

Both Moore and Sager say the editorial niche around the future of work is vast and hasn't been serviced well by other companies. LinkedIn, they said, often serves up content from contributors whose primary focus is marketing themselves. Other sites that focus on professional development often do so sporadically or focus on one specific industry. That leaves a gap for reporting on work writ large.

And there's more news in this area than ever, Moore said. Work lifetimes are being extended, remote work is gaining ground, millennials are changing the nature of employment, the gig economy is dawning and job hopping is in vogue.

"Right now, we're at this moment in history where everything about how we work is changing, and we're only slowly understanding that," Moore said. "So it seems like a really good time to not only write about this rather underserved topic, but to take a look at how it's going to change in the future and bring people along with us."

In addition to the conventional article format, Ladders News plans to publish natively with Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News. Moore said Ladders News has inherited a healthy newsletter audience from the parent company, and Sager says the site plans to feature advertising.

Because work is their topic of choice, Moore says the Ladders newsroom will cultivate best practices culled from their journalism, such as mutual respect and collaboration.

"Since we write about work culture and since we're creating something new from scratch, we saw this as a chance to be liberated from the way that newsrooms usually work," she said.

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.

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