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Winterford is back as Risky.biz expands

By Phil Sim in Media News on
Beers in a Byron Bay pub have proven the catalyst to luring former iTNews Editor-in-Chief Brett Winterford back into media, joining Patrick Gray’s Risky.biz in a role that will see the infosec podcast create written content targeting the world’s most influential policymakers.
 
The hire of the well respected Winterford, who has just left a gig as director at security firm Symantec, is a coup for Gray and it’s not even his shout. The role is being entirely funded by the Hewlett Foundation, a philanthropic organisation founded by HP co-founder Bill Hewlett and his family.
 
Risky.biz is an influential cybersecurity podcast which has carved out a reputation as one of the world’s most authoritative voices on information security. Its guest list reads like a who’s who of the cybersecurity industry, including Donald Trump’s former cyber advisor Rob Joyce. It’s considered a must-listen amongst cybersecurity professionals and policymakers around the world.
 
Not bad for a podcast that Gray founded and has produced from his former home in idyllic Byron Bay. It was here, over a beer with Winterford that Gray hatched the plan to get his former peer on board.

“I’d been working with the Hewlett Foundation a for a little while, as they fund a lot of interesting work in cybersecurity,” Gray told Influencing.
 
“At the same time, the Symantec merger was happening and I realised there was a possibility that might affect Brett. He’s an unusual hybrid because he’s spent so much of his career as a reporter and he’s incredibly good at it, but he’s also spent the last five years working in security. What more could I want!”
 
So Gray approached Hewlett and “ran up the flagpole” the idea of Winterford joining his team to create the kind of written content, that both he and Winterford believe is missing from the sector today.
 
“The idea was that we could provide a higher level of analysis freed from the constraints of having to earn money, and we’ll end up with something that is a little more sober and better suited to the people Hewlett wants to reach, which is the policymakers.”
 
The central plank to the content will be a weekly newsletter that provides a digest of the week’s key cybersecurity news stories and topics.

“We’ll be doing a lot of Day Two content,” said Winterford. “We’re not going to be breaking news, we’re more interested in curation.”
 
 “We’ll analyse the stories that have broken during the week, diving into the bigger picture or if we feel there has was uncertainty around a story, we’ll dive in that. Some of Pat’s best work has been disproving stories that have broken a day or two earlier.”
 
Gray added: “The whole idea is to give people context that they don’t really get anywhere else.”
 
Winterford will also be writing features as well as editing contributed content from high-profile subject-matter experts. Gray noted that the Hewlett Foundation would be assisting Risky.biz in connecting them with world-renowned talent which would only serve to enhance the podcast’s reputation for engaging the biggest names in the industry.
 
That’s not great news for PR pros who may be eyeing the podcast as a target. Gray said it’s been some time since he’s received any PR pitch that managed to turn his head.
 
“My best advice is to contact sales to sponsor something,” Gray said. “We don’t really use PR-led content, ever. Basically it never happens because the talent we have access to is insane, and so any pitch would have to be mind-blowing.”
 
Even sponsorship is not a given. Gray said Risky.biz sold out all his current sponsorship inventory six months ahead of this year, as the podcast continues to grow both in terms of influence and commercial success.
 
“I hired a fulltime commercial manager, probably three years ago and we came up with some more sponsored products to increase inventory and I jacked up my prices. We were lucky enough that there was a security boom and a podcast boom at the same time, and that meant we could turn it into a real business. That’s what we’ve done and now we can start looking at doing a little more with it.”
 
“The last few years, I’ve been consolidating that growth, but now it’s experimentation time because we’re established and even in a position where we’re able to pick and choose our sponsors. We can look at a company and say ‘they’re interesting’, or ‘they’re a little bit overdone’, so even our sponsored content is really good.”
 
He’s moved down the coast to swish new digs in Ballina recently, but what Gray has proven with Risky.biz is that it’s entirely possible to remotely cover events occurring in hotspots like Washington D.C. just as well as you could if you’re on the ground.
 
“We do focus a lot on the US because that’s where it’s most interesting,” Gray said. “Obviously as guys over there have come on as listeners, we’ve developed some great contacts and I talk to those people pretty regularly and they let me know what they’re thinking and I do like-wise and now we’re part of that scene.”
 
Winterford said he’s always been “in awe of Pat’s bravery to break the mould and try new models.”
 
“I think every journalist in our industry probably envies what Pat has been able to do and thinks why didn’t I do that,” Winterford said.
 
TOMORROW: In part two, we talk to Winterford about his foray into Corporate Land, what he learnt, and why he’s now stepped back into media.
 

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