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Lauren Zalaznick: A forest fire is about to hit the media industry

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Lauren ZalaznickDerick E. Hingle/Bloomberg—Getty Images

Every Friday, The Broadsheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the most powerful women in business, features an exclusive interview. Today, Caroline Fairchild speaks with former NBCUniversal exec Lauren Zalaznick about the future of her career and of the media industry. You can sign up for The Broadsheet here.

Edited excerpts:

CF: Why did you recently decide to join Refinery29 (a fashion, beauty and lifestyle website) as an official advisor?

LZ: I have been drawn toward the intersection of not only great audience and content, but where audiences and content meet data and technology. Whether it’s the Shazam board that I joined officially as a director or Refinery29 which is a formalization of an advisory relationship, it’s because it is a business that is healthy, really growing like wildfire and really needs a supercharge or super focus around either high customer growth or high monetization growth.

The stuff I really love is bridging the gap between the new audiences and where they live and the content that still has to be pretty extraordinary to reach specific audiences and breakthrough.

CF: How do you help those companies achieve that?

LZ: What has come into play very recently is people looking for organizational strategy. Whether you are growing your company from 12 to 50 employees, or 50 to 250 or 250 to 1,000, the question is always how do you keep the window open for creativity, growth and monetization without an immediate change in culture and chokehold on growth. Organizing for growth is something that I think is a real experience that I love, and love to bring to new companies. It’s also an overlooked one. Everyone talks about strategy and your sphere of contacts and influences, but organizational growth is a basic necessity that is underserved and underutilized.

CF: So what does the future look like for you?

LZ: In my heart of hearts, I just can’t get enough of this thing called media. What propelled me to leave the best job in media [referring to her 12-year stint at NBCUniversal] was to be able to dive into and check myself to see if I have a preference for small businesses. The first ten years of my career, I was absolutely not drawn to any sort of traditional job. The next 15 [were with] a big, huge media company with NBCU, but every day of my life for all those years it was amazing to me that I got a paycheck every two weeks. I have no judgment that a startup is better or worse than a big company. In choosing the next path, it is more about who I will get a real kick out of working with rather than what environment I want.

CF: What do you see for the future of the media industry?

LZ: The challenge is that the great media companies today are going to remain the great media companies of the future, but they are going to be joined by the emerging great media companies of today. The great middle is what is going to suffer the most.

If you look at post-World War II, that was wave one with the ride of the private media company, meaning the rise of broadcast. Then 30 years later you see wave two with as the rise of programmatic and distribution cable. Now, about 30 years later again, we are seeing the rise of wave three. Every so often there is a forest fire and the greatest trees stands and the middle is wiped out. Then, a thousand different species erupt from the forest floor. That is how I see the media ecosystem right now.

CF: Speaking of all the new small media players, why did you decide to launch you own weekly newsletter?

LZ: LZSunday Paper grew out of NBCU where I initiated a council of women from many different industries like banking, retail, beauty, media, finance and digital for a conversation about how to tackle the changing landscape and the changing audiences through… marketing and advertising to women. When I left NBCUniversal, it was important to me to keep that dialogue going with this, in my view, to expand the community of women in business outside of the corporate guardrails and bring in a little pop culture, high culture, fascination and humor to it. In the past year I have been working on [the newsletter], it continues to evolve thematically and features of the newsletter have changed but the main point is to keep a very consistent and open dialogue with a very tight, smart and engaged group of business people.

CF: What does the newsletter add to the ever-growing media landscape?

LZ: I’m not a journalist, so I am not going to report as a primary source person. It is about offering a different lens. If you look at majorities, you are going to get majority stories. If the majority of CEOs of banks are men and the top of business you going to write about the decision makers and influencers in banking, you are going to write about those men. That’s not underserved. Everyone needs to know what is happening at the tops of their industry. What is underserved is not so much reportage on what these women are doing in these industries, but the different voices that emerge around very popular stories… If you want to see how the other half thinks, this is a pretty good window into that.