Meet 10 Storytellers—and One Team—Taking a Fresh Approach to Content

From The Atlantic to Google Brand Studio, these media innovators are honored in Adweek Creative 100

Let’s face it: There’s a lot of great content out there. So much to hear, watch and read. If you’re in media, how do you make your content stand out? These 11 innovators are showing how.

Dave Jorgenson
TikTok creator and video producer, The Washington Post

What he does: Jorgenson’s role is nestled among the worlds of journalism, promotion and cheerleading. He shows readers and TikTok users “what makes The Post great” through viral videos that mix an accessible Dad-jokes sense of humor and newsroom visuals with popular TikTok trends, challenges and sounds. He thinks of himself as the paper’s “tour guide.”

Numbers guy: Jorgenson’s got half a million followers on TikTok, and his videos have garnered 23 million likes. So while he may not be breaking news on the popular platform, he’s serving the paper’s mission to build a new, much younger audience.

Silver-lining playbook: At a time of great turmoil, Jorgenson is nevertheless determined to highlight moments of happiness and levity. “I’m very aware of my naïveté in wanting to find the positive in people and things,” he says, “and I’m intentionally clasping to that, despite the world’s best efforts.” —Scott Nover

David Haskell
editor in chief, New York

A year to remember: Haskell has only been at the helm of New York magazine for a year, and it “corresponded with an astonishing, unprecedented flood of news: impeachment, [Jeffrey] Epstein, a presidential primary, a pandemic, an economic collapse.” On top of that, the magazine, which includes verticals The Cut, Grub Street and Vulture, was bought by Vox Media in September. “You learn to surf the wave,” says Haskell. “I have been enormously impressed and proud to see how resilient and flexible our magazine can be.”

The long of it: “Long-form journalism is, for New York magazine, one of the hallmarks of our journalism and one of the biggest reasons our readers love us,” Haskell says. “I’d be publishing lots of it in any environment, because it is the building block of the magazine I know I want to make. But fortunately, it also makes a strong business case for itself, as our digital subscription business becomes an increasingly important business line for the company.”

Feat of clay: Haskell also owns a whiskey distillery and dabbles in ceramics. “They are both creative projects, one collaborative and the other solitary, one more commercial and one more artistic,” he says. “Editing a magazine is all of those things, and sometimes it helps to unlock a problem or brainstorm a project if I’m chatting with the distillery staff or I’ve got clay in my hand.” —S.N.

Bon Appétit Test Kitchen Team
Condé Nast

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since Adweek interviewed the Bon Appétit team, including editor in chief Adam Rapoport, and published this story, the Condé Nast-owned magazine has been at the center of a controversy involving allegations of unfair practices by Rapoport—who was also shown to be wearing brownface in a 16-year-old photo. Rapoport resigned from his position on June 8.

Kitchen confidential: Working from home during the pandemic, the Test Kitchen Team is out of its natural environment—the culinary Shangri-La at Condé Nast HQ stocked with seemingly limitless ingredients, supplies and kitchenware. But they’re maintaining a certain taste level nonetheless. “We plan more, shop less and, ultimately, cook better meals,” says Adam Rapoport, editor in chief of Bon Appétit. “We are far more resourceful and creative than we were three months ago.”

Finding inspiration: “I am not creative when I’m happy, so these bleak times have actually caused me to turn it up a level,” says assistant food editor Sohla El-Waylly. “My advice to anyone who’s struggling is just get started on something. Once my hands start moving, my brain usually catches up and we end up there together.”

Branching out: Bon Appétit boasts surging year-over-year web traffic, watch time and YouTube subscribers, and the Test Kitchen Team is also joining platforms beyond its own OTT channel. The team has been increasingly active on Instagram’s IGTV recently and jumped onto Cameo and Zoom for charity events aimed at alleviating children’s hunger and aiding restaurant industry workers affected by the pandemic. —S.N.

Lisa Tobin
executive producer for audio, The New York Times

Out front: One of the masterminds behind the Times’ hugely successful flagship podcast The Daily, Tobin helms the audio wing of the Grey Lady—which now has even greater reach. “If you think of The Daily as the A1, the front page for NYT Audio, then think of everything else as all the other great stuff that also makes up The Times,” she says. “There’s the front page, but there’s also the big investigations. The magazine. Cooking. Those great features. Celebrity profiles and interviews. We can do all of that too. But the front page is the reason you show up every day.”

Balancing act: While Covid-19 is the biggest story in the world right now, Tobin also values “counterprogramming.” New series Rabbit Hole, for example, covers digital culture, and The Sunday Read is a weekly magazine-style story. “We’re working really hard to provide people escape and relief in addition to everything else,” says Tobin. “And we’re constantly trying to figure out the balance—not just of stories, but of emotions and what we’re asking from and giving to the listener.”

Sound advice: On Tobin’s team, they ask each other what a certain story should “sound like.” Some projects, she says, sound like radio dispatches, while others resemble immersive histories or something more cinematic. “That’s my favorite part about this job—getting to answer the question of how a story wants to sound differently each time,” she says. —S.N.

Julia Beizer
chief product officer, Bloomberg Media

On finding new opportunities: As Bloomberg Media’s first CPO, Beizer has overseen and grown the company’s expansion into new revenue streams, including a licensing and subscription business and a foray into OTT. “Look for problems that people have, and you’ll find product opportunity at every turn,” she says.

On innovating for a changing consumer: “Empathy is a product manager’s most important tool,” she says. “If you spend some effort to understand why consumer habits are changing, you can get in front of any curve.”

On the importance of CPOs: “Having a deep understanding of one’s customers is at the heart of any media business today,” Beizer says, adding, “It’s this spirit of the discipline that we’re already seeing ripple through our industry. Its effects will be seen for a long time to come.” —Sara Jerde

Clint Schaff
head of L.A. Times Studios, Los Angeles Times

Recent work: The L.A. Times Studios, which has overseen audio, video and experiential productions, has repurposed some of the paper’s most dynamic stories to new media, including podcasts such as Dirty John and Chasing Cosby, a look at the journalism behind covering the legacy of Bill Cosby. “Our podcasts engage audiences by combining world-class journalism and Hollywood-style production—a package that L.A. Times Studios is uniquely able to bring to market,” Schaff says.

On staying creative: “I try to create communities, content and experiences to stay connected with a variety of folks who inspire me,” he says. —S.J.

Mia Tramz
editorial director, enterprise and immersive experiences, Time

Repurpose-driven: Tramz has been drawing on the magazine’s archives for inspiration. She most recently led a yearslong project to bring the March on Washington to life with an immersive VR experience.

On making meaningful content: “You need to create something that if someone were to come across it in their social feed or hear from a friend, they would say, ‘Oh, my God, I have to see it’ and jump through the hoops to see it,” Tramz notes.

On the future of storytelling: “My secret—maybe not so secret [agenda]—for many years has been to really push into the education space with immersive,” she says. “Instead of trying to produce a high volume of content, we try to figure out how we can push the conversation forward.” —S.J.

Jeffrey Goldberg
editor in chief, The Atlantic

On staying curious: Goldberg, who is leading his newsroom through the pandemic and attracting record-breaking subscription numbers to the brand (though the magazine laid off 68 people across the company at the end of May), usually takes long walks along the Potomac in normal times. He also reads voraciously. “I try, whenever possible, to read books and articles that have nothing to do with my job, although everything in the world actually has something to do with the job of an editor of a general-interest magazine,” he says.

On having high standards: “We have to apply magazine values to everything we do,” says Goldberg. “In other words, every story has to be original. Our stories have to be beautifully—and idiosyncratically—written, carefully edited and designed perfectly. So our magazine standards force us to think creatively all the time.”

Never bored: “We are writing about so many new phenomena in the world,” he says. “The novelty of everything—the awful novelty, in many cases—helps people stay creative. This moment is many things, but boring it is not.” —S.J.

Damien Scott
editor in chief, vp of content and development, Complex

A career in content: Scott’s return to Complex Networks in December 2017 as its director of content was a homecoming of sorts—he’d previously served as the organization’s deputy editor of music and executive editor. Prior to that, he was Mass Appeal’s music editor and later did stints at BET as senior director of content and at Hearst Digital Media, where he brought creative branded content campaigns to life with partners that included Lexus and Rolex. (Scott left Complex in May.)

Branching out: Under Scott’s leadership, Complex Networks grew its video business to include key franchises like Everyday Struggle, a daily hip-hop debate show, and Out of Bounds, a program that highlighted notable sports moments. Another notable event series, ComplexCon attracted more than 85,000 visitors.

Let’s talk: Getting people talking is key to content creation, and over the years, Scott has occasionally returned to music criticism with this in mind. Where he penned a look at the greatest rappers and hip-hop producers since 1979 (the first year of recorded hip-hop), he remained cognizant and encouraging of disagreement among readers. “This list is meant to spark debate—we know you’ll tell us where you think we got it wrong—and to give credit to the people who inspire us to dance and nod our heads to the beat,” he wrote earlier this year. —S.J.

Jerry Daniello
svp, Entertainment Brand Solutions, Disney Advertising Sales

High-stakes work: Marriott tapped the Disney CreativeWorks team to launch the Marriott Bonvoy travel rewards program during the 2019 Academy Awards. “I’d say the stakes were pretty high: It was the client’s biggest launch in their history, and it was all being done on the biggest live entertainment stage in the world—all while engineering a seamless transition to an isolated ad pod that included custom creative that we produced,” he says. Marriott provided the 60-second spot, directed by Oscar-nominated director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Disney designed a 30-second introduction, along with intros and outros of the ceremony, to make the ad feel cohesive with the broadcast. “It was a lot of effort to execute the integration seamlessly—if the camera operator’s framing was off by a couple inches, for example, our magic trick would be exposed,” he explains. The integration attracted the attention of other brands, including Rolex, which signed on to have its ad featured in a similar way during the 2020 ceremony.

The key to great integrations: “A mixture of your great team and your gut/intuition,” says Daniello. “When I describe my job to my two sons, I say I’m like a musical conductor. Now, I don’t have tuxedo tails or a baton in my hand, but I do know which teams of talents to engage and, just as importantly, at what times to do so.”

Words of wisdom: “Trust yourself. Trust your voice. Then work to express your ideas most clearly. For some, it’s the written word or brainstorming, and for others it’s speaking in front of a room. Ideas are currency—hone in on that skill, and use it to express thoughtful opinions,” he says. —Kelsey Sutton

Check out Adweek’s Creative 100 for 2020 by category: Rising Talents | Senior Agency Leaders | Global Agency Leaders | Media Innovators | Celebrities & Influencers | Creators & Curators | Branded Content Innovators | Directors | Cover Star: Ramy Youssef

This story first appeared in the June 8, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.