Austin Rief & Alex Lieberman: Morning Brew’s Secret Sauce


I have two guests this week: Austin Rief and Alex Lieberman, the founders of Morning Brew. Their business-focused daily email newsletter now has more than 2 million readers. These two gentlemen started the company in college while studying at the University of Michigan. It began as a simple idea — to make business news more interesting for young people. While helping his college classmates prepare for job interviews, Alex noticed they failed to connect with traditional business news. They wanted something better to keep them informed, so he created a daily newsletter that later became Morning Brew. 

I will never forget the first time we met. We were introduced by a mutual friend and agreed to coffee at the Beekman Hotel in New York City. We spoke for two-hours about the future of media, then raced to Morning Brew headquarters where we immediately wrote an article called The Pivot to Owned Commerce. One year later, Austin and I recorded a podcast about the secrets of email marketing and the story of Morning Brew. 

In this episode, we spoke about the benefits of showing how you run your company, what a Cross-Fit-for-Writing community could look like, and Morning Brew’s secret sauce for hiring writers. Please enjoy my conversation with Austin Rief and Alex Lieberman.  

Friday Finds

I publish a newsletter called Friday Finds where I share my favorite links from the week.

In it, you’ll find books, articles, videos, podcasts, and more.

After you enter your email, I’ll send a sheet of reading recommendations which you won’t find anywhere else.




    Find Alex & Austin Online

    Morning Brew

    Business Casual Podcast

    Austin’s Twitter

    Alex’s LinkedIn

    Other links

    Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business

    Barstool Sports

    Porter Robinson’s Cherished Music playlist

    I Will Teach you to be Rich

    Soho House

    Jennifer Morrison on North Star


    2:20 The true origin story of Morning Brew. Why to be honest and share how you run your company. 

    10:40 Why Austin and Alex use 90 day “rocks” to make goals for their company. What the common pitfalls in the Traction system are. What makes Austin and Alex’s partnership work. 

    19:08 What Barstool is doing right. Why to publish under an umbrella and why to go your own way. Why to create your materials for a specific psychographic. 

    27:32 David’s ideas for building a “crossfit community” in writing. What is wrong about the current community movement. Is Soho House the new country club?

    38:16 Why Austin believes raising venture capital and creating a long term sustainable brand are inversely correlated. Why venture capital may or may not be the right funding source for different businesses. Why finding a unique problem that isn’t totally solved is the key to finding business success.

    48:22 How to become an original creator. The power of being unoriginal. Why people love the Morning Brew. How the Morning Brew found their audience.

    57:30 The secret sauce for how Morning View hires writers. How Morning Brew uses a persona as their voice guide. What salad restaurant that persona prefers. Why having a unique and potentially contradictory set of skills is what really brings success.

    1:12:35 Why to start from your small niche. How a “pointy business” can become a large structural business. Are our current education platforms in a danger zone where they are neither structural or pointy? 

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