BuzzFeed Veteran Jon Steinberg to Woo Millennials With Finance News Network

Cheddar Still -Screen shot-H 2016
Courtesy of Cheddar

The startup, named Cheddar, will broadcast live from the New York Stock Exchange and won't feature anyone over the age of 40 on-air.

There are companies focused on distributing news, lifestyle tips and sports content for Millennials. Now, former Daily Mail executive Jon Steinberg wants to offer up business and finance videos for a younger audience.

Steinberg, who was previously president of BuzzFeed before moving over to run MailOnline as CEO of North America, will do this with Cheddar, a new startup that will stream live daily from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

"We live in a time where SpaceX is landing rockets on their tails and Facebook has well in excess of a billion people going to its platform every day. It's exciting and interesting and a big part of dinner table discussion," says Steinberg. "But I think it's sort of an under-covered area. There hasn't really been a new startup that focuses on these topics in the way that there has been in politics and sports."

Cheddar will be a little like CNBC or BloombergTV — if they were made for the 18-34 demographic — but without a cable subscription. “Cheddar is a news network,” explains Steinberg. “It would be a new cable network if we were going to put it on TV, but obviously we’re not going to.”

Where exactly Cheddar’s videos will live is still the biggest question that the startup faces. Steinberg says the goal is to sell Cheddar’s live shows to one of the many subscription streaming services competing for consumers' attention. He rattles off the names of Amazon, Netflix and Hulu, as well as AT&T's yet-to-launch DirectTV streaming service. “In a world where there are that many people buying and distributing content, it just seems crazy that, as a startup, I would both create the content and try to create billing and distribution with end users,” says Steinberg. “So, my current thinking is that we’re going to go through one of these partners.”

He adds that he’s currently talking with distributors and “could take a bad deal now, but I want to see if I can get a good deal.” And he’s quick to point out that Cheddar, which was founded in January, has yet to produce its first video. 

Cheddar plans to begin broadcasting in May, starting with one hour of live video with an eye toward eventually expanding to an entire day of coverage that includes throwing to reporters in the field. Cheddar will broadcast from the NYSE, as well as from a media booth on the second floor of the NASDAQ. Steinberg says he’s also looking for a third, more casual location.

That less buttoned-up setting could be key to the tone that Steinberg is hoping to create. He says he won’t put anyone on air over the age of 40 and is forgoing heavy TV makeup for a more natural look. While there is a dress code on the trading floor, he also wants the reporters to dress in a more relaxed manner. “The talent will certainly be informed, but we want to approach it much more casually,” he says. “I don’t want to use TV-isms like ‘when we come back’ or ‘you’ll never guess what.’”

Cheddar has $3 million in funding to launch its live news network, and Steinberg has recruited Yahoo veteran Peter Gorenstein as chief content officer. By the end of the year, he hopes to have built a team of 10 and has put out an open call for anchors, though not the traditional talent seen on TV. He’s looking for both business and news reporters with experience at print or digital outlets and web-native talent. His requirements: Be “obsessed with stocks and companies” that include Google, Apple, Facebook, Netflix, Tesla and other high-flying consumer brands, and be “relaxed, informed, fast and fun on camera.”

Despite the plethora of websites devoted to capturing the highly sought-after Millennial demographic, there are few devoted specifically to finance and business news. But Steinberg says that surveys he’s conducted show that’s not because twentysomethings and thirtysomethings aren’t interested. “This is a group of people where technology is the driving cultural force in their lives,” he explains.

As for the name Cheddar, Steinberg says he liked that it connotes money. He points to the lyric in Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement” that goes, “I check cheddar like the food inspector.”

"I’ve had this thing for cheese my whole life,” adds Steinberg with a laugh. “The router in my house is called Hot Mozzarella.”