How To Boss It Like… Benjamin Cohen, Founder of PinkNews

By Alex Wood 14 January 2016
Benjamin Cohen with Ed Miliband at the PinkNews awards.

Britain’s business leaders are changing the world. In our weekly series we find out how they get the job done.

Countless leaders are changing the world. From Eileen Burbidge to Simon Belsham and Debbie Wosskow, smart people get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time.

This morning we’re talking to Benjamin Cohen, founder of PinkNews, the world’s most successful LGBT+ news website.

Cohen became the UK’s first teenage dotcom millionaire aged just 17 and since then has gone on to grow a successful media career, writing for The Times newspaper and becoming technology correspondent for Channel 4 News.

In 2005 he founded PinkNews, a London-based news website for the LGBT+ community. 10 years later, the site has become the largest LGBT+ site in Europe. In 2015 Cohen conquered the US market in under a year.

Today, aside from campaigning for LGBT+ rights, Benjamin is a non-executive director of Handicap International, the Nobel Peace Prize winning global development charity for vulnerable and disabled people.

A busy man, with big ideas, The Memo asked Cohen how he gets it all done.

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

I get up just before seven, or earlier, if my doctor boyfriend wakes me up! If I don’t have a breakfast or an early meeting I read The Times and The Telegraph on my iPad quickly over breakfast.

Even in a constant news cycle, I think there’s a lot of value in reading the traditional broadsheets, even if it’s on a smart device. Then if there are any stories that would be relevant I send them to the PinkNews team over Slack along with anything I’ve seen on Facebook or Twitter.

After breakfast, most mornings I will spend 20-30 minutes replying to emails from the sofa and looking over documents that have come in from the US overnight. I then pop to the gym by my house. While there I tend to check out both the PinkNews and The Guardian apps while on the cross trainer and will forward anything of note to the team, again on Slack. Spotify is on when I’m doing proper gym things.

On the way to the office, on a hopefully not-too-busy tube,  I work on a document or occasionally an article on my MacBook. If I can’t get a seat, I check out The Daily Mail app and will likely have a BBC Radio 4 download or a Guardian podcast on. On a normal day I’d be in the office for 10.

What apps or methods do you use to be more productive?

We use Slack extensively to have group, team and direct communications. The editorial team uses Todoist to list the stories being worked on and I check into this a few times a day.

I tend to write physical lists onto the glass windows of our office and have a habit of putting important tasks into my Google Calendar. Evernote is my space for ideas.

What smartphone do you use?

iPhone 6 in Silver with 64 GB of storage.

How many people, outside of family, do you meet in a day? And who are they?

This varies from 3 to 10. No two days are the same for me. I like to meet with the key stakeholders in the LGBT+ space, the media and politics.

When Parliament is in session and I’m in the country, I’d probably be at the Commons or Lords once a week.

Today I was there to quickly say hi to Mike Freer the Tory MP for Finchley and Golders Green and to have a longer catchup tea with Ed Miliband.

We are raising our first venture round at the moment so a lot of my meetings during the day (or evenings) are with VCs.

I try and meet or have a call with our key advertising sales partners once a month. If I can, I try to schedule a load of external meetings in one day but it is hard to make it happen.

If we are not in the same country, I will have at least two Skype chats with Gideon, our COO, who is based in our California office. We use the time zone difference to get work done while the other sleeps.

When do you work until? Are you still sending emails in the night?

I tend to leave the office at 7. If I have late calls to the US then I might leave earlier so I can do them all at home. Some evenings I will be at receptions or dinners. If we are both around, my boyfriend and I might go to the gym together or out for dinner in Primrose Hill.

I tend to be emailing and Slacking until I go to sleep. If both of us are at home and we don’t have any work to do, we snuggle up on the sofa to binge watch some TV. We are currently watching an episode or two a day of Mr Selfridge, I’m ashamed to say!

Come back next Thursday for our next #BossItLike interview, and get in touch if you know a leader who’s also a productivity guru for us to talk to.