After a storied career in broadcast journalism, Katie Couric is calling her own shots these days at the helm of a media company that bears her name, Katie Couric Media. The former NBC News and CBS News anchor is reinventing the business model around content creation and storytelling, bringing in select values-focused brands to partner on everything from podcasts and celebrity interviews to long-form documentaries and docuseries.
On Friday, Couric and her business partner (and husband) John Molner presented the business as a case study for Harvard Business School students in a course on entrepreneurial advertising. Starting with choosing a first client, the students talked through partnership strategies, ad sales, content creation and distribution.
“Throughout my journalism career, I’ve always focused on presenting facts to the audience,” Couric told Adweek. And while the network news business has come to favor news with a “strong political bias viewpoint,” having her own company allows Couric to “deliver accurate, trusted and timely information” on her own terms, she explained.
Launched in 2017, KCM represents an unconventional model for journalistic content. That’s in part due to the crisis that news media has found itself in over the last several years, with every month seeming to bring more layoffs in the industry. Couric and Molner didn’t want to mimic a model that wasn’t working anymore, but they did want to create compelling content that fulfilled the mission of KCM: “To spark curiosity, elevate conversation, inspire action and move the world forward.”
To do that, they’ve partnered up with purpose-driven brands on everything from short-form video interviews to a docuseries that spans continents and cultures to tell groundbreaking stories. The brands have to be well established, with resources to support a high production value and quality storytelling. They also have to be willing to take a back seat on story creation, the founders explained—that’s Couric’s job.
“Every project we work on, we’re story-led,” Molner said. And while both Molner and Couric emphasized that the specifics around each story idea are different, he noted that there must be an “authentic intersection” between the brand and the story that KCM wants to do for a partnership to work.
The aim of the venture is to combine the news icon’s passion for storytelling with a new trend that Couric had noticed in corporate branding: a commitment to social responsibility. The model has proven successful. It gives Couric room to follow the stories that her journalistic sense tells her are on the cusp of going viral, and leverages the resources of the world’s biggest brands to invest in the production quality that’s required to compete in today’s media environment. It also gives those brands a concrete way to make good on their commitment to their values, bolstering their reputation at the same time.
“We identified a unique opportunity to develop meaningful editorial content in partnership with brands,” Molner said. “Now more than ever, corporate social responsibility has increasingly become a marketing priority for corporate America.”
The company has also successfully partnered with some of the world’s biggest brands, including Ally, Procter & Gamble, Sleep Number, Merck, Walmart, H&R Block, Rally, Google, Diageo, Athleta and Salesforce.
“Whether it’s through producing informative and entertaining conversations, news stories, social media, digital videos or long-form documentaries, KCM collaborates with brand partners to create purpose-driven content that has a positive impact,” Molner said.
Over the last three years, KCM has built a social presence that reaches more than 5 million followers across platforms. Couric’s daily newsletter, Wake-Up Call, launched in March 2019, is on track to triple its subscribers this year and hit the 1 million mark in 2021. And her fanbase spans age ranges in a way that few mediums do these days—including more than 32.3 million millennials, 24.2 million Gen Xers and 31.1 million baby boomers.