Managing Editor, Investor’s Business Daily
Susan Warfel is managing editor of Investor's Business Daily, a national business newspaper based in Playa Vista. She guides coverage of the financial markets, the economy, business, government and other news for the paper and its companion website, Investors.com. Her responsibilities include staff development and planning of new features and sections as well as newsroom business matters, technology and Web traffic development strategies. Ms. Warfel joined IBD during the start-up phase in 1983. She began as a reporter and later was promoted to senior editor, with responsibility at various times for many areas of IBD's business coverage. She has been managing editor since 1996.
What day-to-day operations have been most impacted at Investor's Business Daily by COVID-19 and how have you creatively overcome those challenges?
Our team has done a fantastic job adjusting to the COVID-19 operating environment. We publish the Investors.com website used by millions of investors each month, along with the IBD Weekly newspaper and several focused digital services: IBD Leaderboard covers a curated list of leading stocks, SwingTrader spotlights short-term trading ideas and IBD Live conducts a daily interactive video meeting where a team of our market experts interprets the trading action and possible investing plays at the start of every trading day. Our team members have not only kept up the pace with all of our services, they've stepped it up to meet the demand for information on what's happening in the market and economy and what to do about it.
Of course, there have been adjustments. While most of the journalists based in our main office in Playa Vista were set up long ago so they could work from home at times, a handful needed to get set up fast.
Probably the biggest impact has been on our video operations. It was a bit tricky for people to get set up with the right cameras, lighting and backdrops to do on-air work at home. And we had to come up with a Plan B for our monthly Investing Strategies show, which normally features live interviews shot at the Nasdaq in New York. For our first show during the coronavirus shutdowns, we created a new workflow using interviews conducted in Zoom and recorded on our multimedia content editor's laptop. She used a production camera at home with her smartphone rigged up under it as a teleprompter. Post-production took quite a bit longer than usual, and there was more work with the guests ahead of time to make sure they had Zoom accounts, good backgrounds and that sort of thing. We're now in post-production for the second monthly Investing Strategies of the coronavirus era, and we expect it to be much quicker.
The IBD Live daily video presentation has been hosted on Zoom since it launched late last year, so it didn't require the same changes.
We're grateful for all the hard work put in by our IT team to keep our networks and systems running efficiently and making upgrades when needed, while fielding requests for assistance from our far-flung staff.
Has this new way of life/doing business resulted in any unexpected wins for Investor's Business Daily?
I'm sure there are people who are enjoying the absence of their daily commute in L.A. traffic. But for the company, the biggest win is not related to how we're doing our business. It's the increase in demand for our content.
When was the last time the business world experienced such seismic changes?
Not in our lifetimes. There are local and regional disasters – earthquakes, floods, fires – that devastate business in a particular area. But nothing like this sudden halt in activity across the whole country – much of the world, really. The coronavirus has thrown us into uncharted territory.
What is the most under-reported business story during the time of COVID-19?
There is so much we still don't understand about COVID-19 and so much we don't know about how the business restrictions will play out from here. But the financial impact on Americans could be felt for a very long time. That's true for retirees, near-retirees, people who work in many consumer-facing and other industries, and young people in college or just entering the workforce. How will governments at all levels pay for all the much-needed assistance programs that began rolling out this spring? Our era of minimal inflation may be near an end. That could take a bite out of everyone's purchasing power.
Which revenue stream will suffer the most as a result of the COVID-19 crisis?
If you're asking about IBD's revenue streams, I'd have to note that advertising is down across the industry, both digital and print. We're fortunate that, unlike so many publishers that rely heavily on ad sales, we have a strong subscription business that provides the bulk of our revenue. In fact, so far we've enjoyed a big boost in our business during the coronavirus pandemic. Site traffic is at record levels. Product trials and orders have climbed. People are hungry for information that will help them understand the stock market's action and what to do with their money.
The Playa Vista community has no shortage of entrepreneurs. What's the best advice for smaller start-ups during such a volatile time?
Be open to unexpected opportunities. It remains to be seen how long it will take to tame COVID-19 so we can conduct our lives and work without fear of getting sick or spreading the disease. Market opportunities that might have seemed like sure things now face serious questions. What's the outlook, for instance, for the shared economy? But other needs open up. Enterprising people are making face masks and bottling hand sanitizer at home. What can tech- and media-savvy entrepreneurs provide to help society through this period?
Do you expect that any changes you've made to your way of doing business due to COVID-19 will remain in your company's normal practices moving forward?
That's really hard to say at this point. We already had the flexibility to work from home when needed but we've always seen a benefit in working together in person most of the time.
What effect do you think COVID-19 will have on opportunities for near term college graduates, has it changed your views of this generation? What advice do you have for young people?
One of my big concerns about the coronavirus impact on the economy is how it will affect our young people. The best I can suggest is that they stay positive and keep an open mind. If openings are few in their chosen career, don't be afraid to do something different.
What will be the lasting impact of COVID-19 on Investor's Business Daily — your most optimistic answer and most pessimistic?
On the positive side, I'd like to think that every investor who's trying out our services stays with Investor's Business Daily for the next big bull market. We have a lot of educational content as well as the daily news and analysis, and we offer webinars for customers and even one-on-one coaching for some of our services to help investors succeed. Our motto is we help people make more money in the stock market. We're focusing on that in this volatile time now more than ever.
I'm an optimist, so I'll just leave it there.
What has COVID-19 made you appreciate?
Freedom. Flexibility. People. Especially the people. Zoom, email and phone calls all have their place and are critical now. But face-to-face interaction is a very nice thing.
How do you navigate the question of when and how to re-open your office?
That will be up to our executive team. I'm sure they'll carefully study state and local guidance and take all steps possible to protect our work force. I should note that the news media is considered an essential business and our office is not completely closed now. We can use equipment there and perform work as needed. But for the most part we are working from home.
How do you/your team balance personal life with professional life while working from home?
I think the trick to balancing your personal and professional lives while working from home is to create structure and routine that leaves adequate time for both. Frankly, I've found this difficult with the coronavirus restrictions in place. As usual, I get up at 5 a.m. and try to fit in a six-mile run before work several days a week. But with no place to go after work, and no sports and big news events (like debates) to follow in the evening, it's easy to let work slide past the usual quitting time.
I can't speak for my team members, but I feel for those who are trying to watch young children or oversee lessons while doing their work. I think many of them trade off focus time with their spouses to get work done.
Once the Safer at Home order is lifted and we get our city back, what's the first thing you're going to do?
Run a marathon! Preferably near the ocean. Or at least a half-marathon; that won't take weeks of training. I could do it right away.