March 29, 2017

The sleep revolution is not going to stop at the U.S. border.

Now a few months out from its November debut, Arianna Huffington’s wellness startup, Thrive Global, is hiring additional journalists and preparing to expand to Italy, India and Eastern Europe.

The expansions, joint ventures with Gruppo Espresso, The Times of India and The Antenna Group, respectively, fit into a strategy to “chronicle the culture shift around stress and burnout” globally, said Callie Schweitzer, the managing editor of Thrive Global (and a member of Poynter’s national advisory board).

Thrive Global’s media platform, The Thrive Journal, now has 10 employees and recently invested in examining the way tech affects health and productivity. Earlier this month, Schweitzer brought aboard Drake Baer from New York to focus on science and Emma Haak from to oversee its day-to-day editorial coverage.

Poynter caught up with Schweitzer, formerly Time Inc.’s editorial director of audience strategy, to discuss the company’s growth, its international trajectory and the differences between working at a legacy magazine company and a media startup.

How does Thrive Global’s publishing operation fit into the company’s overall mission?

Our goal for the media platform is to become the global hub for the conversation that is increasingly dominating our culture — the link between well-being and performance. The media platform focuses on three things:

  • Covering and curating the latest science connecting well-being and productivity
  • Shining a spotlight on new role models who are showing how we can be successful without burning out
  • Creating a worldwide community for people to tell their own stories, share experiences and find inspiration

Our goal is to chronicle the culture shift around stress and burnout — both of which are global problems that have huge costs — individually and collectively. We’ve chosen to focus on this for a simple reason: The science is irrefutable that well-being and performance are directly connected. We’ve just brought on Drake Baer from New York magazine’s Science of Us as a senior writer to add to our original reporting team with a focus on science.

Related Training: Tools for Smart Science Journalism

Given that burnout is a global epidemic, we are expanding all over the world. Our media platform is at the center of everything we do. Our joint ventures — which we’re thrilled to be launching in 2017 — in Italy, India and Eastern Europe are all with major media partners to help accelerate our presence and contribution in these areas, respectively with Gruppo Espresso, The Times of India and The Antenna Group.

Do you consider the content posted on Thrive Global straightforward editorial content or content marketing for the products and services Thrive Global offers? Some combination of the two? Is journalism a word your crew uses a lot?

Thrive Global’s media platform, The Thrive Journal, produces editorial content with a core focus on the connection between well-being and productivity. Our editorial team is focused on editorial journalism, and yes, we use the word journalism a lot! We’re covering news every day. Since we launched three and a half months ago, we’ve delved deep on a few key topics, like how burnout culture is manifesting across the world — ranging from China and Europe to the U.S. — brain health, mental health, the toll stress takes on your body, the science of decision-making and our relationship with technology.

While the stories and our scope of coverage on Thrive Global’s media platform is vast, there’s one unifying thread tying everything together: Well-being yields productivity. In the case of our contributors, whether you’re reading a piece by a scientist, an academic, a religious leader, a politician, an athlete, a celebrity, a business leader, or your neighbor, it all comes back to this core theme. It’s the same with our reporting: the science and research coverage, the influencer profiles, the service journalism — all of these are about changing the way we work and live.

Let’s dive into some numbers. How many people read Thrive Global every month? What does the company’s balance sheet look like? Is it cashflow positive?

We’re always talking about numbers! We use them to make informed decisions every day, and we look beyond our site UVs (unique visitors), which are strong and growing. Every day, we look across all of our platforms, and we value newsletter open rates as indicators of growth as much as Facebook shares and engagement.

Our media platform grew 80 percent from January to February alone, and March is looking to be our best month yet. Our total reach across platforms — including The Thrive Journal, our newsletters, social followings and Arianna’s social following — is more than 16 million in less than four months since launch.

How many people work for Thrive Global’s publishing operation? Can you outline their roles?

Our 10-person media team is rapidly growing, and it includes everything from writing and editing to partnerships and audience growth. In addition to hiring Drake, we recently hired Kelsey Murray from PEOPLE to lead audience growth and Emma Haak from OWN to oversee our day-to-day editorial coverage with a heavy emphasis on science.

Drake is a leading voice in the coverage of neuroscience, social science and psychology, performance and decision making. He’s a must-read for people who follow any of these topics. He’s going to play a huge role in building our editorial operation, and help us establish ourselves as a trusted source with the business and social science communities.

Formerly at New York Magazine, Business Insider and Fast Company, Drake has interviewed influencers ranging from Bill Gates and Beth Comstock to Daniel Kahneman and Steph Curry. We’re thrilled to have him as an anchor voice, covering new research on how humans can excel at work and life. He’ll take an interdisciplinary perspective, combining the social and brain sciences, as well as philosophy and management.

His beat is defined very broadly around one question: how do humans realize their potential and perform at their best — in both work and life?

“We want to fill the white space where science meets business meets humanism,” Drake said. “We hope to make the conversation around well-being and performance — and just how much of it is in our control — accessible and understandable to everyone.”

What are some other topic areas you’re interested in exploring? Do they need to align with Thrive Global’s products and services?

We know there’s a huge interest in diving deeper into our relationship with technology. It’s already one of the defining conversations of our time, and we’re covering it from every angle. We’re also focusing on how ancient wisdom is being validated by modern science, from compassion to gratitude to mindfulness. Other passion points for us are around creativity, productivity and how we can change the way we work and live. There’s a reason one of our six sections is called Work Smarter!

How do you make Thrive Global a habit for readers given that it isn’t really a news destination?

Since our November launch, we’ve been overwhelmed by the amazing response we’ve received from our readers. We hear from people all over the world about how they came across Thrive Global.

Making anything new into a habit for people is reliant on one thing: how much value can you bring to someone’s life. We’re hyper-focused on serving this passionate audience and growing it by being everywhere they are — and that goes beyond distributed platforms. We believe the future of media lies in partnerships, and it’s why we’ve teamed up with VICE, NowThis, The New York Times, Accenture, Under Armour, JP Morgan, Audible and more to bring our content where our readers are. We know there’s a white space in this conversation right now, and we want to make it accessible to the widest audience possible.

What are the major differences between being part of a large corporation (Time Inc.) and a startup?

I’ve always loved building. That’s a passion of mine. And what’s amazing about being in the early days of a startup is you’re doing everything for the first time — even if you’ve done it before elsewhere. We’re defining our culture and our structure as we go. I’ve always tried to treat every job I’ve had like a startup, but it’s been rewarding and exciting to see something come to life as we’re doing with Thrive Global.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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