Kara Swisher’s New Podcast Defines Her Next Chapter: ‘I Wanted Control’

·4 min read

When it was time for Kara Swisher to make a career pivot, the veteran digital journalist and prolific podcast host had one priority.

“I just felt like I wanted the last part of my career to be owned by me,” Swisher told TheWrap. “I wanted control and I wanted to own the IP – two things that I’m able to do with Vox and share in the risk and reward. I think everybody wants control over the things they make.”

Swisher’s latest thing is “On With Kara Swisher,” a new podcast she launched Monday in partnership with Vox Media. With new episodes Mondays and Thursdays, “On” will be the fifth podcast Swisher has brought to life, after Sway (for the New York Times), Pivot (Vox), Recode Decode (Recode, under Vox), and of course the official podcast of “Succession” (HBO).

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The difference this time: Swisher is completely in control editorially, and owns the IP: “I don’t like consulting with everybody on what I’m going to do,” she said.

Swisher has certainly manifested her share of media startups – and navigated plenty of corporate partners along the way. All Things Digital, co-founded by Swisher and Walt Mossberg, was owned by The Wall Street Journal, which declined to renew their contract in 2013. Next she and Mossberg launched Recode, which Vox acquired in 2015.

Her most recent gig was at The New York Times, where she joined as an opinion writer in 2018. She later hosted the Times’ “Sway” podcast, which premiered in 2020.

“I wasn’t ever an employee of the New York Times, so that was good,” she said. “But I also wanted to adhere to their standards” – noting that while their format is “a little more formal,” she learned during her time there that she is not.

But the a-ha moment about owning IP came when the Wall Street Journal recently lost a large batch of data from its site, including work by Swisher and her colleagues. She called the loss “irritating.”

“With seven years of work by these amazing reporters, all of whom are now pretty well-known, and then it’s gone,” she said, noting that the archive had early videos of Mark Zuckerberg. “All our stories, we speak to everybody, and it’s gone. It just underscores to me ownership, of me, of everything. I just thought, [in the] last part of my career, I really just don’t give away all this good stuff.”

The Wall Street Journal and its parent company Dow Jones didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Kara Swisher, Gavin Newsom
Kara Swisher interviews Gavin Newsom at Vox Media’s 2022 Code Conference (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Vox Media)

The new podcast, which Swisher says is “looser,” emerges out of a new three-year deal between Swisher and Vox Media, separate from her other Vox contract for “Pivot,” which she co-hosts with NYU Professor Scott Galloway.

“It’s super wide ranging and it’s a slightly different format,” Swisher said, noting that the podcast is similar to the tone of “Pivot,” but “not quite as kooky.” “Then there’ll be a big interview on every one of them … a big, long interview.”

With “On,” Swisher plans to tap into a number of modern media platforms, including video and social media as well as live shows. She says the podcast will incorporate formalized Twitter Spaces — a format the reporter experimented with while at The Times.

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Though admitting she would enjoy hosting former CODE conference speakers like Elon Musk and Susan Wojcicki, Swisher underlined that she values substance over celebrity.

“I don’t want to interview anybody just for name. I want to have great discussion,” she said. “We’re not averse to well-known people, it’s just that we want to have substantive discussion with whoever we’re talking to, and we consider them smart.”

As for Swisher’s dream guest, the title goes to Dolly Parton, who she says she’s been trying to interview “forever,” alongside Taylor Swift, noting that she would focus on the stars’ entrepreneurship.

She also expressed that she intends to lean in to emotion in her new endeavor, similar to one of the last CODE panels in which Apple CEO Tim Cook, former Apple design chief Jony Ive, and Emerson Collective founder Laurene Powell Jobs reflected on Steve Jobs’ legacy.

At the end of the Sept. 7 panel, Swisher nearly broke into tears when she recalled a conversation when Jobs shared his story of being adopted.

“He said, ‘Just remember it doesn’t matter where you came from; it’s who you are, and the people who love you,'” she said. “I was surprised.”