The Business Of Hip-Hop; Luring Millennials To Life Insurance

Jan 25, 2014
Originally published on January 25, 2014 10:44 pm

The online magazine Ozy covers people, places and trends on the horizon. Co-founder Carlos Watson joins All Things Considered regularly to tell us about the site's latest feature stories.

This week, Watson talks with guest host Kelly McEvers about a rising star who has made hip-hop serious business, and the advertising tactics that life insurance companies are using to attract young people.

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It's time for The New and The Next.


MCEVERS: Carlos Watson is the co-founder of the online magazine Ozy. Each week, he joins us to talk about what's new and what's next. Welcome back, Carlos.

CARLOS WATSON: Really good to be here. Good to be here in person.

MCEVERS: Yeah. Nice to see you. This week, you introduce us to a rising star in the world of hip-hop. But he's kind of on the other side of the equation. Tell us about him.

WATSON: He is. He's an incredible young Yale graduate named Zack O'Malley Greenburg who writes for Forbes magazine but, instead of writing kind of complicated stories on hedge funds, has spent all of his time covering what he calls the kings of hip-hop. He writes an incredible annual digest, if you will, of who's been most successful. And whether he writes about Ludacris or Jay-Z, whether he's talking about Beyonce's recent success or what Drake is doing, he's actually turned music - and fun music - into serious business. And it's become one of those most popular portions of the magazine.

MCEVERS: It's no secret that music is business. I mean, how did he come up with this idea?

WATSON: Well, he always was a music fan, fell in love with hip-hop, tried to convince his editors early on that there was something more there than just something to listen to, that there was serious business underpinning it. And ultimately, as they saw the popularity of this segment grow, it went from what is called a sidebar in the magazine to really, effectively, its own mini issue.

MCEVERS: And I understand it gets phone calls from certain people if they don't appear on the list or if they appear a different - a place on the list that they don't feel comfortable with.

WATSON: Well, famous bad boy Sean "Diddy" Combs and others are famous for challenging his numbers and making sure that they get full credit for their entrepreneurial success. So it's been a lot of fun for a former child actor and Yale writer who never imagined that he would have so much fun at 28. He's not even 30 yet. So lots of good stuff.

MCEVERS: Another business story on Ozy this week, about young people and finances: life insurance. You know, this isn't necessarily a priority for young people. But there's some companies out there who are trying to come up with some creative advertising. What's that about?

WATSON: So life insurance - multibillion-dollar industry, usually selling life insurance policies to people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, older - found themselves in real trouble during the financial crisis looking for a new market. And who, of course, did they turn to? Twenty-somethings. But you and I - and you're looking at me. You're saying, well, what's the pitch to a 23-, 24-year-old? Like why in the world do they want life insurance? And two tacts have been taken. One, it's - you don't want to leave your parents stuck with a bill after all they've done for you, so if, God forbid, something happens. That's been one of the pitches.

And the other has been around Social Security. If it's not there when you need it, is this some version of a security policy, not just life insurance, et cetera. Hasn't been very successful for 12 million reasons, including perhaps the fundamental pitch, but it's a reminder, maybe, of the lengths that people go to or that industries go to in the midst of difficult times.

MCEVERS: Yeah, lengths like playing on your fears, like you're going to die when you're young, before your parents do - take care of them. I mean, it just seems kind of illogical.

WATSON: Seems illogical and yet in a fit of desperation they've pursued that both here and overseas. One of the critiques, though, that the number of people in the space make is even if you were going to go after so-called millennials, you'd want to use different approaches. In other words, you'd want to sell more of it online. Of course, it's hard to think of selling anything to young people today that doesn't involve giving them the convenience and sometimes the cheaper cost of selling things online.

MCEVERS: Carlos Watson is the co-founder of the online magazine Ozy. You could explore all the stories we talk about on Carlos, thank you again.

WATSON: Kelly, good to see you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.