Hi, welcome to your weekend!
In a week when The Information celebrated the rising tide of female leaders in media, tech and finance at its annual WTF conference, we also examined a more complicated model of female leadership.
This week’s cover story by Annie on Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini is a tightrope walking masterclass by both writer and subject. Nardini invited Annie into her office to discuss how she guided Barstool through seven years of explosive growth, culminating next year with a $550 million sale to gaming company Penn Entertainment. But Nardini also stumbled a bit when it came to defending Barstool’s dark side. (And like documented by non-profit Media Matters, darkness is ubiquitous.)
The questions Annie asked Nardini might not have surprised the CEO, and yet she hesitated a bit as she tried to defend Barstool founder and figurehead Dave Portnoy against allegations of sexual abuse. As a female leader who has embraced her status as a “symbol” in a company known for being rude and misogynistic, Nardini is an expert in threading the needle. But even she can’t completely evade some hard truths about her business and culture.
Faced with all of this, and with the threat of Portnoy or his Stoolies unleashing one of their patent attacks on journalists, Annie approaches her subject with courage and conviction. No matter what the Barstool slogan says: This Saturday is for women.
“We also have assholes and trolls. It’s the nature of the internet.” So said Nardini, who acts as a designated adult inside Dave Portnoy’s digital “Animal House”, otherwise known as Barstool Sports. The media company now boasts 172 million social media subscribers, 2 billion monthly video views and 40 million monthly podcast downloads, and was recently acquired in a “historic” deal with Penn Entertainment. But, as Annie writes, it’s also followed by an ever-changing cloud of controversy, from misogynistic headlines to accusations of a toxic workplace to allegations of sexual misconduct against its founder. seem to elude Nardini, but they raise the question: does she allow Barstool’s worst tendencies?
As half of Britain queue to see the late Queen’s coffin, Abe reflects on The Firm’s brief banter in Startup Land. Launched by Prince Andrew ahead of his Jeffrey Epstein-linked ban, a Demo Day-style event called [email protected] sought to energize the English tech scene from 2014 to 2020. The results weren’t that significant for the founders involved, but they got an unforgettable royal following.
Even though most faces in crypto are frowning, the guys behind Doodles, a celebrity-favorite NFT startup, are grinning from ear to ear. Their freshly inked Series A just valued the 11-month-old company at $704 million, with Seven Seven Six’s Katelin Holloway leading the round. Abe chatted with Evan Keast, one of the co-founders of Doodles, to find out what makes the “Rugrats on an acid trip” NFT draw so much heat in a crypto winter.
Over coffee and canapes, Arielle and Annie asked attendees of The Information’s annual Women in Tech, Media and Finance Summit about their post-pandemic work routines, the best money they’ve spent recently, and their thoughts. on the future of women’s leadership. (Hint: just don’t call them “girlboss”.)
Watch: An Artist Confuses the Surveillance State
Artist Dries Depoorter is here to remind you that you are always being watched. In his new project, The follower, it compares surveillance footage of tourist sites to Instagram photos. An influencer’s gram outside Wrigley Field may seem effortless, but CCTV footage shows her annoyingly turning away tourists and repeatedly adjusting her pose. If the look seems creepy, that’s the point: the images are all open source, and at least one of Depoorter’s subjects does indeed feel violated. “I would like you to delete my photo…immediately”, the subject wrote at the entrance, which covered the story behind the art. “It is a crime to use a person’s image without permission.” Unfortunately for the monitored, this is usually not the case. —Margaux
Read: An in-depth dissection of Hunter Biden‘laptop
The treasure trove of data stolen from the POTUS offspring’s computer totaled 217 gigabytes and included homemade pornography, statements from Wells Fargo, psychiatrist notes, social security numbers and even a photo of brother Beau Biden taken three days before his death. New York magazine’s Andrew Rice and Olivia Nuzzi provide the deepest probe in this stolen data and the still simmering political scandal it sparked. The authors admirably place Hunter’s laptop in a larger, mostly apolitical context: “It is hard to think of a single living individual who has experienced such total annihilation of digital privacy since our devices became extensions of our consciousness. —Abe
Noting: Tesla chief wants more whistleblowers
Wow ! Elon Musk is asking everyone to report, literally. The centimillionaire announced tuesday that for the price of 1000 Doge (about $60) you can buy a silver whistle made by Tesla. It’s a not-so-subtle nod to Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, the Twitter whistleblower who raised concerns about the security of the platform. It’s also a show of hubris: While many doubted Musk could deliver on his promise to buy Twitter, Zatko’s claims gave his case at least some life. The whistles have already run out, so if you hear a moron two its on the streets, just assume it’s a Musk fan showing support. —Margaux
who makes you think
Until next weekend, thanks for reading.
Weekend Editor, The Information