Nicole Lapin left a plush gig as anchor of the CNBC program Worldwide Exchange last week, in part to start her own multimedia production company aimed at bringing her unique brand of business news to a wider (and younger) audience. While Lapin says her departure from CNBC was perfectly amicable, the decision to leave was a surprising one, given how quickly her star seemed to have been rising at the network. Adweek caught up with Lapin by phone to find out more about the move.
Adweek: You’re still relatively young, and it seemed like you were a rising star at CNBC. Why the move?
Nicole Lapin: I want to clarify that I’ve been on the air for almost 12 years at this point. I started my career very early on when I was very young in local news markets. So I seem young on paper, but I’ve had a lot of experience. [I’m leaving because] I felt an intense urgency, after being on the air for so long, to demystify Wall Street and personal finance for a younger generation. And I was always playing in an older world. I felt like I needed to come out and be the voice of all generations. And I felt like this was the time to do that, with the recession seemingly coming back again.
But why start a production company? Why not jump to another network?
I’ll be contributing to all networks now. I was on MSNBC yesterday and The Today Show the day before. So I get to contribute to all of the networks that I’ve either worked for in the past or been a fan of. I think that will create the most impact.
So you see this as an opportunity to bring business news to a broader audience?
I think this is the way to do that. [And] I also [now] have the opportunity to contribute to a lot of different media, not just via one particular show or one particular network. Good content is platform agnostic. So moving forward and contributing a very similar message across all platforms is going to be my goal.
So you think your personal news brand is strong enough that it can carry you without being tethered to a network?
Like being a free agent.
Absolutely. And I welcome the opportunity to be able to decode really intimidating money topics for different networks. It would be finance news in a party dress for some networks that we’ve started developing with. Or very straight financial news for others . . . I thought that I had to democratize [business news]. I have to be the voice of a generation who is more Us Weekly than Financial Times.
Was anything lacking at CNBC, in your mind?
There was nothing lacking. I loved my time there. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the company, the brand, and the people I worked with. It wasn’t a deficiency at CNBC. It was just a deficiency with the information I saw elsewhere.
Is there something bigger going on here? Ten years ago, it seems like a move like this would have been almost unthinkable. Are young reporters more likely to make this sort of jump than they might have been before?
It’s interesting, but I can’t speak to the trend . . . My goal in journalism, when I first started, was to be at CNN. I was a wide-eyed Northwestern [University] student saying, "If I could see the inside of CNN before I die, I will die a happy woman." That was 10 years ago, at this point. And then I got to CNN at 21. And the goal post just kept getting higher.
Did you feel like you had any trouble with upward mobility at CNBC?
No, not at all. This is not a statement on CNBC or any of the organizations I’ve worked with in the past. I have great relationships there. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about them.
So how will you be appearing on other networks? As a host? As a pundit?
I think it will be case by case. You came up with a great "free agent" sports metaphor. I’m developing my own shows and shows I’ll be an executive producer for others. I want to be on camera. We’ve seen a proliferation of interest in shows like [the CBS reality program] Undercover Boss and shows like [TLC reality show] Extreme Couponing. People are concerned about their money, and they want to watch that in a different variation when they’re at home with their families—and perhaps on women’s networks. You won’t see a lack of variety, fear not.
So is this the Anderson Cooper model?
I think Anderson is obviously still proudly at CNN . . . His brand extension is very Anderson. And nothing but respect for him. I think mine is going to be different because of the subject matter . . . I wish I could point to somebody that I can follow in the footsteps of directly.
OK, but there does seem to be a pattern emerging of cable news hosts carving out their own brands and branching out.
Well, it’s a comment on media in general, right?
Do you think it might make some cable news executives nervous?
It’s going to be case by case. I’m not saying that everybody at every major news network is going to stand up and revolt. It’s going to be an individual choice. And my individual choice entailed the intense urgency to do this at this point in my life. At some point I’d like to move the goal post again.
What can you say about CNBC’s reaction when you started talking to them about this move?
I don’t think I can say anything about that.