Jacqueline Leung, Owner of Pressed News
See our interview below with Jacqueline Leung, the owner of Pressed news. Learn more about how it all got started, what goes behind creating the daily newsletter, and more about the complicated feelings that come with being a female founder of colour.
Tell our readers a bit more about Pressed and how it all got started.
Pressed is a morning newsletter designed to fill you in on world news. It was born out of a personal need four years ago. Back in 2015, it was an election year here in Canada. I wanted to join in on conversations at work, but when I turned to news outlets to learn more, I found that they were often not speaking to me or like me. There was way too much jargon and Canadian politics was rarely covered, with TheSkimm’s coverage of the election starting and ending with ‘the hot guy won up north’.
It seemed like there was a gap in the market for digestible news stories, so to test it, I started writing a few stories a day and sending the best ones to friends about twice a week for feedback. What I ended up learning was that there were so many people who felt guilty or ashamed about not being informed. It turned out I wasn’t the only one struggling to consume news in the right way. It took a few months before I gathered up the courage, but I ended up quitting my marketing job at Rogers to pursue Pressed full time by the end of that year.
What does it look like behind the scenes producing the newsletter?
Behind the scenes of Pressed there are three female leads, including myself. Together, it takes us about 5 hours to make a newsletter. As a lead, I spend time watching and reading news across different platforms to help curate a list of stories. The goal is to find things we think people are going to talk about the next day, with additional emphasis on Canadian news and politics. Then, we choose stories by 4-5 PM each day and assign them to writers who have until 10PM to research and produce their piece. At the end of the day, I pull everything together into the newsletter.
One of the toughest parts of the job is continuing to hone the voice of Pressed. We aim to be conversational, written with the young professional in mind. At first, because it was just me, it was easy to have a single voice, but as we’ve grown I’ve had to relinquish some of that control to make room for others to help evolve it. For example, our writers who are journalism students bring with them an invaluable reporting background, but because they are taught to write in a specific CBC-esque tone, we need to find a balance between telling a hard news story and breaking it down into a short flow. Luckily, three years in, we’re still receiving a ton of positive feedback, with some of our readers telling us that we are their only source of news. I love being able to fill that void for people.
You share news with tens of thousands of people every day. What was it like trying to grow your readership?
Growing pressed has been full of learnings. Our first growth spurt came after I pitched the launch of Pressed to other local blogs in Toronto like Shedoesthecityand Narcity. Our readership grew really quickly during those first few months, but once it wasn’t as new and shiny anymore, momentum slowed.
From there, I did a lot of experimenting, which is a fancy way of saying that I threw a lot of ideas at the wall to see what stuck. My goal was to spend as little money as possible since Pressed was self-funded, so that meant partnerships, influencer campaigns, contests, you name it. When we did end up getting a little bit of seed money, we turned to ads.
The thing about trying to get people to talk more about you is that you eat up a lot of time and money. As a small team, this is a cycle that I couldn’t really afford. As a result, our focus over the past year has really been on sponsorships so that we can grow organically by getting good content out there every day. The next milestone for Pressed is to figure out a model that doesn’t lean solely on sponsorships because in the media landscape they are especially competitive. I’d say if my first year was about self-financing, and the second year was about raising money, this third year is really about figuring out a revenue model.
How was it raising money for Pressed?
As a solo female founder of colour, it was hard. I don’t think it was until I pursued Pressed that I realized how affected I could be as a minority.
On one hand, I want to be treated the same as everyone else. However, because investors often see the world through the lens of a white male, the lack of representation sometimes resulted in a disconnect. It’s eye opening because I know that if I were to pitch to a woman of colour, they’d understand my perspective a lot better. On the other hand, in VCs where diversity is pursued, sometimes I feel like I’m just there filling a quota. It’s on those days that I need to remind myself that these are baby steps in the industry and that I’ll meet them and show them why I deserve to be there. It’s honestly a complicated feeling.
What’s on the horizon for you and Pressed?
In the next year or two, I’d love to find a way to build up other women of colour who are on this same journey of entrepreneurship. My hope is that there can be more people who look like me, or just different, in positions that can understand and help.
In terms of my vision for Pressed, I would love to make it more regional. There are very few media companies doing something similar with accessibility, and even fewer do it through the lens of where people live, something that heavily impacts the way you see the world. Today, algorithms feed you the news you like, so I’d love to continue to leverage technology so that we can get news to our readers that they wouldn’t normally see. I’m excited to see how far my team and I can take Pressed for our readers.
Stay informed with what’s going on around the world and sign up for your daily dose of Pressed News here. Or if you prefer consuming content on the ‘gram, follow @pressed_news. Jacqueline’s got you covered.