February 2023
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Business

Dawn Wotapka’s Media Movers: In conversation with Lou Carlozo

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Lou Carlozo

This week, we talk to Lou Carlozo, the multitasker who is now editor and publisher of Talking Biz News. Lou, who lives in Chicago, has an impressive resume that includes some of journalism’s top brands. These days, he’s working to increase TBN’s reach, while contributing The Wall Street Journal’s newly debuted Buy Side, hosting a podcast and, when he can, freelance writing.

We talked to Lou about working in classic print journalism, who’s making a mark in the digital age and his need for a musical hit.

Dawn Wotapka: Tell me how the role of being EIC of Talking Biz News came about and your vision for the site.

Lou Carlozo: At first I wasn’t interested, to be honest. But Vested CEO Dan Simon kept after me for at least six months. He thought I should give it a shot in part because of my energy level and creative bent. Eventually I gave in to his persuasive powers and charm. Dan is one of the best CEOs I’ve ever worked for, a guy you want to move mountains for.

And Talking Biz News is one mighty big mountain to move. The foundation is superb but it’s ready to enter a growth stage. There’s unbelievable potential for new revenue streams, expanded content, and moving into new coverage areas.

Dawn: Tell us about that.

Lou: I’d like to dive into business and finance journalism itself. That’s true to the origins of the site and the work I also do in finance, but also a clear path for expanding our scope and reach. We also have a big agenda in terms of form: podcasts, columns and opinion pieces should all be part of the mix. Maybe Web 3.0 and TBN crypto are next! (Laughs.)

Meanwhile, we’ll keep abreast of jobs and moves, because that’s what our readers love. We’ve also learned that we have a sizable readership in media relations, and they deserve love as well.

Dawn: You also work on Buy Side for The Wall Street Journal. What do you do there and how does it fit into the overall scope of what you do?

Lou: Buy Side is a unique entity. I’ve been taking a short break from that and other responsibilities, including my “Bankadelic” podcast, with the TBN ramp up. Mostly I cover whatever they assign me, but there’s been some work on financial products and ways people can maximize their money. My piece on chasing yield through savings accounts was the most read during Buy Side’s first week. I’d love to do more of that sort of thing.

Dawn: About that podcaster’s hat: I love that you aren’t a one-trick pony, as they say! What is Bankadelic’s goal?

Lou: Right now, it’s not just one podcast but several. Bankadelic is the main property; I founded and host that one. It’s a financial services show that concentrates mostly on the financial technology or fintech space. I want to highlight the incredible tech these niche companies are creating, and the people behind it. Occasionally we branch into finance at large; I just interviewed Mark Hamrick at Bankrate about the inflationary spiral and what it means for the economy.

In London, fintech rock stars Dave Wallace and Dharmesh Mistry host “Dave and Dharm Demystify,” and Dave has also just founded a podcast based on Web 3.0 and marketing. We also have two podcasts in development outside the finance space.

Dawn: Let’s go back in time. What was it like working at the Chicago Tribune as the print industry changed dramatically?

 Lou: Wow. First, I have to say that not a day goes by when I don’t miss the Trib — at least what it was in the 2000s. The signs we were in trouble came long before the recession. The owners were pretty piggy about their double-digit profits while all around us, the Internet was gaining steam. We could’ve been leaders and instead ceded ground to more nimble entrepreneurs.

Not that we did ourselves any favors as reporters and editors. Things we take for granted today — like writing headlines with SEO value — caused grumbling and anger among the old guard. A lot of writers refused to play along.

But the real disaster came when Sam Zell took over. A lot of us regarded Zell as a billionaire savior who could keep the salad days alive. Then the Great Recession hit, and he ate us all for lunch. His leveraged buyout fell apart and in one swoop, 53 of us got laid off. It’s still a record number as bloodbaths go.

Peter Ligouri took over and treated Tribune Tower not as a journalism shrine, but a fantastic real estate play. It’s condos today, which disgusts me. Now Alden Capital owns the Tribune and their head, Heath Freeman, has singlehandedly destroyed some of the nation’s proudest papers. He’s a vulture capitalist who only cares about lopping off employees to fatten his wallet.

So in a sense, much has changed but not the truth that newspaper owners put profits far above people. That’s page one news if another business  does it. But you’ll never see the Trib cover it because the fox guards the henhouse.

Dawn: I love that you’ve worked for a variety of online publications including Aol and GoBankingRates. While many of the early players didn’t survive, numerous startups are finding success on the web. What do you think it takes to make it today?

Lou: Ah, something positive to cut off my ranting! (Laughs.) You have to be scrappy, clever and dedicated to quality, while also embracing different business models. In Chicago, the Sun-Times has survived and will ultimately overtake the Tribune as the city’s best paper because it went the non-profit route. It was recently bought by WBEZ-FM 91.5, a public radio station with one hell of a news operation. The Texas Tribune is another example of a top-flight non-profit outlet.

Axios has a very interesting way of staying low to the ground staff-wise and gearing its content to busy people. They also weave in ads with editorial, still separating church and state but giving ads more space while condensing the news items. In Chicago, Monica Eng and Justin Kaufmann are setting a fabulous example for the metro Axios operations everywhere. They make their daily newsletter interesting, substantive and fun.

Dawn: If you were starting out in the business, what would you do differently?

Lou: I don’t know: How about everything? (Laughs.) Seriously, I think I’d have set more consistent goals and outlined a vision for my career. I’m in my 50s and just learning this today — that’s way too long. As a cub, my only goal was to get a full-time staff job at a major daily paper and I cleared that hurdle in record time, less than four years starting from zero. Then I foundered. I took whatever my editors handed me.

Overall, that hurt me in so many ways. I figured whatever I was supposed to be passionate about would just hit me in the head one day. Those rare times it did, as when I started a DVD column, I enjoyed the hell out of it. But I never gave any thought about where to go from there.

It’s only in the last few years I’ve changed course. It may explain why I’ve wound up here.

Dawn: Music is a big part of your life. Does that help you with your day job or is it a creative outlet?

Lou: It’s both. When I was getting started as a stringer at the Philadelphia Inquirer, my mentor Arlene Morgan introduced me to editors by saying, “Lou has music in his writing voice.” It not only gave me confidence but also taught me that writing and reporting demand more than deft phrases and hard work. Bob Dylan once said something to the effect that he learned more about songwriting by visiting art museums than anything else. Music itself is like that for me.

Right now I’m working on two albums of original music — I’m in the Beatlesque power pop vein — and recently released an album of songs with lyrics by Shakespeare. It’s an immense joy and keeps my writing grounded in the areas of rhythm, harmony and hook. Journalism? Music? No matter the field, all I need now is a hit.

Dawn Wotapka is a former Wall Street Journal reporter who loves to read and write. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children. She is a slow runner and an avid Peloton user. To submit tips for her Media Movers column, you can contact her at dwotapka@gmail.com. Be sure to connect with Dawn on LinkedIn



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