In the new millennium, the most popular global media outlets don’t always start with three iconic letters like ABC, HBO, or TBS. The Hype Magazine had the unique privilege to interview Shira Lazar, a pioneering leader in interactive online digital media. Lazar is the Emmy-nominated Co-Founder and CEO of the popular “What’s Trending,” daily show. Lazar has been featured on a variety of global media outlets, such as the Huffington Post, CBS, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg TV. In addition, the digital mogul is a Webby Awards Honoree, Streamy Awards and IAWTV Winner for Best Web Series Live Host. The Hype Magazine would like to thank Lazar for providing this in-depth interview.
What inspired you to enter the entertainment business?
I think that there are things that inspire you and sometimes you are led in certain directions. I believe you create in certain areas professionally and personally. I just naturally loved entertainment and media and I was always intrigued by entertainment and the people I looked up to. The things that I consumed in the entertainment business were mainly talk shows and news magazines–I loved shows like that growing up. Every project I did in school, I pretended that I was interviewing someone and simultaneously I was always performing as a child. So where I landed today mixes in all those passions and forms of expressions that I enjoyed in my youth.
But I think that the approach of not taking no for an answer and figuring out a way to do something and make something happen was always a part of my mentality and lifestyle. I grew up with entrepreneurs around me and so if you think about it going into the entertainment business makes sense. Also, there were not as many options back in the day, social media and all of these emerging platforms were not around when I was growing up, and now there are new phases coming into the fold. Being able to figure out solutions and a way to make my dreams happen that’s how I feel my inspirations unfolded.
How do you see social media evolving over the next five years?
Even a year and a half ago the Facebook video wasn’t even around or the idea of uploading music and videos to Facebook did not exist. Now we have companies being built solely on Facebook videos and social video. Two years ago it was all about YouTube. Netflix was just coming into play and now people are winning Emmys off of their shows on these platforms. It’s so hard to imagine what is to come next. We are in a virtual reality world with services such as Snapchat and Twitter. Now, emerging brands allow you to see events in real time, supposedly temporary, although there are Snap Chat memories. From the growth of new media brands and network brands, there is the opportunity for independent creators to rise to the top. I do think the traditional media will start coming in and putting money into digital platforms and then the industries are back at the same place they started. In the end, it comes down to marketing dollars. Those are the things that will become front and center.
I still hope that we can be in a time where great content can be discovered and new platforms have democratization and won’t be taken over by marketing dollars coming from big media. I think digital media it is so cool and in the past, you had creators who didn’t have a lot in terms of money but rose up and had great talent. They created products that looked high quality. Or you had creators who didn’t have the high production quality, but it was authentic. I loved both sides of the next generation of the entertainment world. Now on YouTube, it’s almost like you have to have high-quality videos to even get people to notice. So I think that we are in a time where the platforms only work for higher quality and high budget media, which is a bit scary because the lower quality had something more to it and it was deeper.
When you are not in front of the camera or online, what are some of the things you enjoy doing in your free time?
I really enjoy having a great meal with wine, biking, traveling, and reading. In addition, when I can, I like to visit art galleries, museums, and being able to meet new people in new environments. Sometimes I like having a massage, staying in bed, and watching Netflix.
You have covered some of the most important events in the entertainment business. What do you see as the next challenge for yourself on a personal level?
I want to bring my company to the next level and never want it to be stagnant. We have always been trendsetters and that kind of works against us because we are always the ones testing things out before the market catches on. Additionally, when they do catch on they come in with a bunch of money. So, that is a lot to handle and push through with trying to stay ahead of the pack and on top. I would have to say my personal challenge would be trying to stay ahead of the pack.
What were some of the challenges you faced early on in your career?
I have not had a straight drama free, no bumps career or journey. I always say that challenges provide me with character both personally and professionally. They make me more humble and grateful for the great moments. I have had many hiccups in my career, even when I started, I was not necessarily getting the traditional jobs at all of the outlets. I was auditioning a lot, but I was not getting to that final phase of jobs with the big television shows or channels. That is what led me to new media and digital media where I was allowed to be creative, learn, and work. This was definitely something that was very important to me. So, if anything there was a reason those challenges happened. Every hurdle you overcome is a learning experience to set you in a better direction for the future.
There were those moments where I also had to deal with being hired and fired from multiple companies, but every time one opportunity ended another one was presented. Being able to navigate through those obstacles helped me really focus on how I could better myself as an individual, as well as, being able to build a company where I’m constantly learning. With the startups, you are always learning and going through the obstacles. Even now people from the outside looking in might say, you have reached a certain level of acceptance in your profession, you are a veteran or a pioneer. I think that the most successful people, from my perspective, are still at the beginning and there is so much more to accomplish to keep pushing them forward. These challenges that I have gone through have allowed me to be able to connect with people on a deeper level. In addition, this has helped improve my craft and made me a better individual as a result.
When you hear your peers say that Shira Lazar is a pioneer in digital journalism, what does that mean to you?
To be honest, it makes me feel like my time has come and gone. A statement like that is kind of weird to me because I have not reached my peak. Yes, it gives me credibility, but I have more creativity to offer to stay relevant. I believe you can not dwell on the successes you have had up to a certain point, because if you do not keep pushing forward you will be living in the past. In fact, that is one of my biggest fears I do not want to live in the past and think wow I reached my peak. So, I am always trying to figure out different ways to stay creative and take advantage of the next big thing. While also trying to be acknowledged by my colleagues and audience. It’s not necessarily like I want everyone to like everything I do, but I do want to know that I have made a connection with people. So, if there is no connection, I am not receiving the response that I’m seeking. I create for my need to express, but part of that is because I want to connect with people, and if you are not able to accomplish that you have to change your approach.
What inspires you to post certain content on “What’s Trending”?
I have a team now, all of us are passionate about social media, the internet, and are users ourselves, as well as fans. We were already sharing content on social media, the difference is now we have a platform of our own to share it on.We try not to take ourselves too seriously, we are sassy and informative for our audience. I think our position as a platform is based around pop culture and even when we are covering politics and elections, we try to report from that perspective and it is always around the social conversation. We pride ourselves in having a platform where we can just have conversations with friends.
Are there any events that you are involved with currently, that we should be aware of ?
We are involved with the upcoming event UpFront in New York City presented by MTV. This is a weekly live music performance series that will be streamed live. In addition, we have some other things in the works that I can not disclose at this time. But we are always trying to figure out how we can use social and print media to raise awareness for different causes. Never limit yourself.
Who are some of the musicians that help you get through your day ?
I listen to Spotify Discovery Playlist all the time, but I really like; Alessia Cara, Drake, Beyonce, Aloe Black, Electronic, Radiohead, Kanye West, Jay-Z, death Punk, Justice, Rihanna, The Chainsmokers, and Future.
If you were to hire someone, what characteristics would you look for ?
A person who is passionate displays professionalism, and can be self-motivated. As well as someone with the ability to communicate, is caring, has empathy and respect for the craft while being able to take responsibility for their actions.