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In January last year, the retail trading giant Robinhood announced its plans to launch Sherwood Media, a subsidiary focused on news and information about business and money. 

The short press release at the time left us with more questions than answers. What we knew was Joshua Topolski, formerly of The Verge and Bloomberg, was to assume the role of Editor-in-Chief, and that the subsidiary would build upon the success of Robinhood’s newsletter Snacks. 

In June Robinhood followed up with the earth-shattering news it had hired a sales guy… followed by some more interesting information about Snacks and its popularity among young folks. But buried in this was the nugget Sherwood will expand its products to include a news platform, print magazine, in-person conferences, and podcasts. 

Then in December Sherwood Media announced its acquisition of Chartr, a company specializing in data visualizations and it plans to integrate into, you guessed it, Snacks.  

All this combined gave us the idea Sherwood was going in the direction of a news site that was highly geared to social and mobile use. The skeptics rightly question whether Sherwood was just a plan by Robinhood to funnel more people to its trading platform as a loss-leader operation.

This month, Sherwood was finally unveiled. On initial observation, it’s very slick. The desktop version doesn’t stand out any more than other competing news sites, yet when you read on mobile the experience is transformed. The graphics and charts look great and you feel compelled to gorge on its no-paywall content which seamlessly flows down your feed.

The Verge’s redesign from 2022 is a clear antecedent, which swapped out standard spaces for news articles for a more dynamic feed that more easily integrates short blurbs and visual content. 

Given how impressive it is on mobile, it now seems blatantly obvious why Robinhood was persistently pushing Snacks in its marketing leading up to the launch. With its millions of subscribers, Snacks will be able to funnel visitors to Sherwood. 

It’s in keeping with a broader trend we have seen in recent years of newsletters acting as the shop window for news sites. Sherwood goes one step further and does away with the notion of being SEO-friendly to pull in readers from Google.

It’s why ‘newsletter-first’ publishers like Axios and Semafor have been so successful and why more traditional media companies are desperately trying to play catch-up. The lack of a dedicated, regular audience is one reason why many new media companies look flashy but burn after a few years (or in the case of The Messenger, less than six months). And why we’re also seeing more journalists use LinkedIn newsletters to funnel readers to their articles. All this in a bid to charge more for advertising.  

Robinhood believes Sherwood will become a revenue driver for the company through advertising. This will rely on continued subscriber growth of Snacks and to do this, the content needs to be high-quality journalism. The early signs are good. 

Sherwood boasts an impressive line-up of journalists. As Axios noted, writers for the new site include former Bloomberg reporter Luke Kawa, and former New York Times writers Toby Bochan and Matt Philips. 

Articles published so far are a mix of your run-of-your-mill markets and econ reporting (see below) mixed in with flashy graphics thanks to the Chartr acquisition, and quirky longer-form features such as what sports stadia sponsorship says about the American economy through the years. In addition, there are plenty of links to other headlines from other newsites, showing the publisher understands the human need to binge and giving them a place to eat as much news as they can, even if it’s not their news. 


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So, what about the Robinhood connection? 

It’s not obvious but there are signs. Sherwood features eight topic sections: markets, business, tech, power, culture, world, personal finance, and slightly oddly crypto. Robinhood is heavily invested in making its crypto trading a success. For me, it’s too coincidental that crypto has its own section on Sherwood. 

Far more bluntly, if an article on Sherwood mentions a listed company, it will show ticker and stock performance with a link to that company’s Robinhood page. This is the single biggest giveaway to Robinhood’s long-term ambitions for how Sherwood and its trading platform will intertwine.

Overall I’m impressed with Sherwood. Compared to what’s being pumped out by legacy banking institutions such as JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, Sherwood feels much more like a complete, nearly-stand alone operation, as opposed to a way to re-package investment analysis that was sent first to corporate customers. 

There are always question marks about a new media site and whether there is much justification in investing time in it personally and professionally from a comms and marketing perspective. For Sherwood, I don't think these questions are valid. It seems very legit.

Given its backing by Robinhood, its smart leveraging of the popular Snacks newsletter, and the quality of its content so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a success story, both as a standalone media site and for Robinhood as a trading platform. 

Sam Barber is a senior vice president in New York