Simon is the CEO and Head of Growth at SitePoint, and a mentor at INCUBATE
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
I’m an old (okay, not that old!) hand in the space since I started working in Digital in the 90’s — I’ve worked a lot between Agency and publishing companies like Lonely Planet and SitePoint, so I have seen the different sides of the same coin in a fair few different organisations.
I worked in the music industry for a while and basically I could already see the disruptive tendencies of the web and digital technologies on music and media — it seemed like a good idea to get in early and learn, and I was lucky that I could get something pretty entry-level at that point and learn the ropes from there. I literally sent a book of poetry and short stories I’d written to the company I wanted to work for in a Production role and they hired me based on that and my scintillating personality!
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
We’re a global publisher working with partners in Asia Pac, the US and Europe, so the day can start early and end late. I’m getting better at work-life balance lately, which means I wake up and get ready for the day without paying too much attention to the devices. On the way in I tend to listen to podcasts in the car (a16z, Recode Decode, Master of Scale and others) – have become big on this because it is a great use of otherwise ‘dead’ time.
Get in, read feeds, check emails and work through my goals for the day, get a good list going and then make sure I stick to it. I try to make sure when I put my list together that it is mixed business/personal so that I get some life stuff out of the way every day as well, otherwise things tend to stack up pretty fast!
I’m big on being mindful of what I don’t know, so a lot of my day is talking to people in the fields in which we publish, trying to understand the ebbs and flows of tech, where the opportunities are and how best we can put together content that benefits our readers and users.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE? (YOUR APPS, PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS, ETC.)
We’re a distributed team, so we’re big on tools like Slack, Google docs, Zoom and anything we can use to ensure we’re collaborating effectively.
Been an Apple guy forever, so MacBook, iPhone, IPad etc. for hardware.
We’re a big chunky WordPress platform, so lots of that as far as publishing and editing, plus a lot of discussion around partner publishing and how we can best utilise content from other publishers or partners effectively.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET INSPIRED?
Lately, it is all running and reading! Got back into exercising daily a few months ago and now I can’t do without a daily run after I get home — clears you and gets you ready for the next part of the day. After that, it is reading. I think in digital it is really easy to get caught up in just ingesting feeds and it is easy to miss out on real deep reading. I’ve made a conscious effort to start reading books again over the last six months and I’m up to at least once a week now (not all business books either!), which helps you keep inspired.
Finally, my kids inspire me. They’re both still in primary school, which means they are interested in everything — I like to hear their perspectives because they tend to be fresh and uncluttered.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
There is a quote attributed to Rumi, “The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear,” that resonates with me because I think everyone tends to want to have the answers and it is really easy to forget to listen (I’ve made this mistake a lot in life).
You can learn a lot by keeping an open mind and becoming quiet.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING/INNOVATIVE THING YOU HAVE SEEN ON ANOTHER OUTLET OTHER THAN YOUR OWN?
Lately, it is a publishing partnership between Hacker Noon and The Next Web –
I strongly believe in publishing partnerships of this nature and I really like the way that they have put this one together.
WHAT’S THE PASSIONATE PROBLEM YOU ARE TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
We’re getting into new content areas recently like AI, Machine Learning, and Blockchain — I’m passionate about finding the best content in some very crowded spaces that help people to both understand the space but also to grow in it — we like to think that our main game is in helping people to solve real problems, so these new areas are big opportunities for this.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?
Be as open as you can and ready to experiment, try new things, and take risks — there are opportunities everywhere in publishing and media and you just need to test and try until you find the right niche. On top of that get out there and get to know people — finding great mentors and people you can learn from is a necessary part of a career in media today.