At only 28 Callie Schweitzer has a career highlight reel most often reserved for retirement parties. (We think people still have those.) At 24, Forbes called her one of NYC “best networked youngsters.” She is also an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, TIME, The Huffington Post and PEOPLE. Which caught the attention of HuffPo herself, Arianna Huffington who recruited Schweitzer to be the Chief Content Officer at her new life and well-being platform, Thrive Global.
And despite what you’ve read (or refused to read), Callie knows that this is an incredibly exciting time for journalism. Here’s why.
Who: Callie Schweitzer
Where: Chief Content Officer, Thrive Global
Why: Tell us a little about your background. How did you get into the content world?
A: When I was in fourth grade I earned the nickname “Sherlock Schweitzer.” I was always on the lookout for a good story or the clue to one. I’m pretty sure I’d written a library full of books about Beanie Babies and Junie B. Jones by the time I graduated elementary school. But my actual career in the content world really started as a journalism student at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. I was the editor-in-chief of a student-run news site called Neon Tommy, and that experience of running a newsroom of over 200 student volunteers kickstarted my entrepreneurial hunger for great stories and how they’re told. I had always wanted to be an investigative reporter, but it was running Neon Tommy that made me see that I cared much more about making sure people got the news than being the person who wrote it. My path since graduation has been at companies of all different sizes — Talking Points Memo, Vox Media, Time Inc. and now Thrive Global — but my passion has stayed the same. I want to make sure great content is widely read.
Q: So more importantly, why have you stayed and climbed the ranks in the content world?
A: This is an incredibly exciting time in journalism. The new technology we have available to us — from VR and AR to voice-enabled technology like Amazon Alexa—just enhances our storytelling abilities. Digital and social media have had a tremendous impact on how new ideas spread. One of the reasons I joined Thrive Global is because of my interest in helping people live better lives. Thrive is all about action and helping you go from knowing what to do to actually doing it. I love that we’re working to help people put content and stories into action and covering some of the defining topics of our time, like our relationship with technology.
Q: What about your job do you wish people knew?
A: There’s no such thing as a typical day, and I love that. I might go from a meeting with a partner and brainstorming feature ideas to testing a new product and working on our corporate content curriculum, which we use in our corporate trainings and digital learning programs.
Q: I read something last month about the death of the opinion piece. Would love to know your thoughts on that…
A: The opinion piece is alive and well! I think it’s really important to expose yourself to as many perspectives as possible — especially in today’s world. Studies show that your weakest ties can lead you to news you wouldn’t have discovered yourself. We have to force ourselves to get outside our filter bubbles and learn about parts of the world where people don’t live the way we do. I so believe in following people and news you don’t agree with so that you always have an understanding of someone else’s “why.”
Q: And where do you think the world of content is heading?
A: I think that the world of content is going to become increasingly personalized. People are looking to be super-served in areas they’re passionate about. Our on-demand world means that people want the content they want when they want it. It’s our job as content providers to make sure we’re finding people where they are, syncing with their habits and delivering them content that helps them live their lives better — whether that’s informing them, entertaining them or engaging them.
Q: For sites that are publishing a TON of content, how would you suggest readers sift through it?
A: I think it’s really key to find a format that works for you. For me, that’s email newsletters. I’ve been obsessed with them for years. I think they’re amazing containers for curated content delivery. For someone else, it might be a print newspaper or magazine, news apps, Facebook or Instagram.
Q: And how do you as a reader sift through the content online?
A: I really rely on email newsletters for a lot of my topic-specific news — politics, media, tech, etc. — but throughout the day I’m visiting Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and various news sites’ homepages to make sure I’m up to date. I’ve really re-invested in visiting homepages directly since the election. I also do a ton of reading on the subway with my favorite read later app, Pocket. And I subscribe to a ton of podcasts to get even more news and information.
Q: How much time do you spend reading content offline?
A: I am a huge print reader. I still subscribe to about 12 magazines ranging from Businessweek and New York Magazine to Vogue and Glamour, and read them every month.
Q: What was the most crucial skill that you brought to your job?
A: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and an adaptability for rapid change. That’s been important in every role that I’ve had, but especially at a fast-moving startup like Thrive Global.
Q: What was a skill you were able to develop over time?
A: A big part of what we’re focused on at Thrive is the idea that we don’t have different selves for our work lives and personal lives — that we bring our whole selves with us wherever we go. So one of my favorite things about working here is that we can be free to be open about our “sacred time” — the time you need each day/week/month to be your best self. I love that my coworkers hold me accountable for mine and I hold them accountable for theirs. I know them as their whole selves — not just their “work” selves.
Q: Do you think the role of editor/content creator is more important than ever… and of course, the why?
A: The role of editor and content creator is definitely more important than ever. In a world of fake news and filter bubbles, it is so crucial that we have people who are committed to making sure people get a wide range of real news and meaningful content that affects them.
Photo credit: Golden Rule Excelsior