Phil Balboni’s Unrelenting Pursuit to Help People Know the World Better

Phil Balboni, co-founder of GlobalPost Media.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on the website of Letterhead, a newsletter platform that is a DailyChatter vendor.

For Phil Balboni, a self-described “journalist entrepreneur,” the mission has always been clear: to help people better understand the world around them. Over the course of his remarkable 57-year career, Balboni has fearlessly ventured into virtually every corner of the media landscape — from newspapers and broadcasting to cable television and digital media — with an unwavering commitment to this singular goal.

“I’ve always loved the international space, but it took me a long time to get there,” reflects Balboni, whose passion for global news culminated in the 2008 launch of GlobalPost, one of the first native digital news sites dedicated exclusively to international coverage. Eight years later, in March 2016, he embarked on his most ambitious project yet: the birth of DailyChatter, a nonpartisan international newsletter that now boasts nearly 400,000 subscribers.

Crafting a “Gateway” to the World

When conceiving DailyChatter, Balboni recognized a critical gap in the media ecosystem. Legacy international news giants like The Economist, The New York Times, and the Financial Times catered primarily to elite audiences willing to pay premium subscription rates. “If you want to subscribe to the FT, you’re going to pay about $500 a year. Most people can’t afford that. And most people really don’t want the level of coverage that they offer,” Balboni explains.

He envisioned a different model — one that could make global news accessible and engaging for a broader swath of the population. “What I wanted to do was to help people really know the world better, to be better informed. And that meant we needed them to read whatever it was we created,” says Balboni.

To achieve this, he set out to craft a newsletter that would be “disciplined and not too long to encourage reading,” serving as a “gateway” for audiences who might otherwise shy away from international news. Equally important was the decision to adopt a subscription-based model from day one. “I learned during the GlobalPost years that advertising was not the way to go, at least it can’t be the sole revenue stream,” Balboni notes.

Building Trust, One Partnership at a Time

Armed with a clear vision and a lean team of just 15, Balboni set about the daunting task of building an audience from scratch. “When we started, I knew most of the people that signed up personally. Today, I don’t know any of them,” he marvels.

The key to DailyChatter’s growth? A series of strategic partnerships with organizations willing to offer the newsletter as a benefit to their members or customers. The most significant of these relationships has been with newspapers across the United States. DailyChatter now boasts nearly 250 newspaper partners, including two of the nation’s three largest newspaper companies, starting with a single paper in Albany, New York.

But forging these partnerships required a hefty dose of persistence and trust-building. “Getting them to trust you, to believe that your product is worth providing to their customers, that was a challenge,” admits Balboni. To bridge that gap, DailyChatter began co-branding its newsletter template with each partner’s masthead — a meaningful gesture that has paid dividends.

Maintaining Integrity in a Polarized World

In an era of hyper-partisanship and rampant misinformation, Balboni has fought tirelessly to ensure DailyChatter remains a beacon of objectivity. “A few years ago, I decided to put at the top of DailyChatter a slogan: ‘Independent. Nonpartisan. Fair.’ It’s right under our name, right at the top of the newsletter. You can’t miss it. It’s a reminder every single day that this is what we stand for,” he emphasizes.

Upholding that commitment requires constant vigilance and a willingness to engage directly with readers, even when tensions run high. Balboni personally responds to every inquiry, knowing that even the most contentious issues, like the war in Gaza, demand a fair and thoughtful approach. “The people who are passionate, particularly on Israel’s side, are always ready to jump in and say, you did this wrong, you didn’t do this right, so on and so forth. But I answer them all,” he shares.

Empowering the Next Generation

For all the challenges facing journalism, Balboni remains resolutely optimistic about the future. Central to that optimism is DailyChatter’s Global Education Program, which provides free subscriptions to college and high school students worldwide. To date, the program has given “hundreds of thousands of dollars” worth of subscriptions to students and teachers in 74 countries.

“Our ability to reach these young people and to give them something that’s helpful to them, that increases their knowledge of the world, is a tremendously significant advantage for us in building a future,” Balboni explains. By fostering global literacy among the next generation, he hopes to cultivate a new cohort of readers who will carry DailyChatter’s mission forward for decades to come.

An Evolving Media Landscape

As he reflects on his own remarkable journey, Balboni is quick to acknowledge the seismic shifts that have reshaped the media landscape over the past three decades. From the dawn of the internet era to the rise of social media and the looming specter of AI, he’s witnessed an industry in a state of near-constant upheaval.

“When I started in 1967, you couldn’t fail. … Journalism business, newspaper, TV station, a radio station, you know, a magazine virtually could not fail,” he recalls. “Now it’s like hard work, creativity, luck, you know, all of those things and more to be able to pull yourself up.”

Yet even amidst this tumult, Balboni remains steadfast in his commitment to the core tenets of his craft. “I think there’s a huge amount of opportunity in the profession still,” he insists. For aspiring journalists, he offers a simple but powerful piece of advice: “Know the profession. Know how to have a good understanding of what exists and how you see yourself fitting into it”.

A Legacy in the Making

As for his own legacy, Balboni insists it’s the furthest thing from his mind. “I swear to God, I don’t think about my legacy,” he says with a laugh. “I’m doing it because I love doing it…thinking about legacy is beginning to think about yesterday. And, you know, I’ve always believed the only place to keep your attention is on the present and the future.”

With his gaze fixed firmly on the horizon, Balboni charges forward with the same relentless drive and infectious optimism that have defined his storied career. Whether DailyChatter reaches 400,000 or 4 million in the years to come, one thing is certain: the world will be a more informed, more connected place because of the tireless efforts of this journalistic pioneer.

Recently, the company has expanded to include a sister publication, World Politics Review, and renamed the parent company as GlobalPost Media Corporation. Later this summer, DailyChatter itself will be rebranded to become GlobalPost.

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