Red Ventures, the biggest digital media company you’ve never heard of

Marketing financial products promises much higher profit margins than the online “affiliate” businesses that underpin websites like The New York Times’ Wirecutter. While a publisher recommending a gadget on Amazon may earn a single digit percentage of a buyer’s purchase, the “bounties” paid to Red Ventures for referring a consumer to a Chase Visa Sapphire Reserve credit card or American Express Rose Gold card can range from $ 300 to $ 900 by card.

The arrival of Red Ventures executives has not always gone well among the journalists who find themselves under Mr. Elias’ leadership. Journalists, like members of a medieval guild (the guild hall is Twitter), tend to be more tied to the traditions of their profession than to any corporate culture, and some look up Heaven on Red Ventures rah-rah retreats, which feature fireworks. and song. More troubling still are some reporters from The Points Guy, which also covers the travel industry in general (this is a comprehensive source of information on where vaccinated Americans can travel), complained that the new owners have eroded the already rocky wall between the site’s service journalism and the credit card sales that fund it.

Red Ventures is “all about maximizing profits,” said JT Genter, who left the site over a year ago. He and other Guy Points writers said they weren’t pressured into posting stories they found questionable – indeed, the site has at times offered carefully critical coverage of Chase and American Express, its dominant trading partners. But Guy Points reporters are required to attend regular business meetings detailing how much money the site makes from credit card sales, which some see as an unspoken suggestion to put their thumbs up.

Mr Elias said Red Ventures had a “non-negotiable line” regarding the editorial independence of its sites, adding that he gave CNET employees his mobile number and asked them to call him if they suffered. pressure from business.

“I told them, ‘There is a red line’ and they say to me ‘OK, we’ll see’,” he said.

Red Ventures’ roots in marketing, its investment in technology to sell you something, and its almost accidental attempt to try and provide readers with reliable, even journalistic advice, has formed a strange amalgamation. And the company’s Silicon Valley style extends only so far. Most employees don’t get equity in the company, and lunch isn’t free, just subsidized.

The company does offer a very pleasant place to work, however, with inspiring slogans printed on the walls of its atrium in cheerful fonts. The one I heard executives refer to the most was “It’s all written in pencil,” a motto that makes sense for a company that has almost entirely changed its marketing origins to become one of the leading providers of journalism to service. And its executives seem to have absorbed the idea that they are selling trust, even if they don’t put it in the parlance of journalism professors.

“Branding and trust are at the heart of everything we do,” said Courtney Jeffus, president of the company’s financial services division, which includes Bankrate. “If you lose the trust of the brand, then you don’t have a business.”

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