Journalist Spotlight | Interview with Martin Lane, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer of Cannabiz
Martin Lane is the co-founder and chief growth officer of Cannabiz, a website dedicated to the news and growth of Australia’s legal cannabis industry. Martin also co-founded Mumbrella and previously worked as CEO.
Medianet sat down with Martin to discuss his career so far, and how he first got here.
You are currently working as the co-founder and chief growth officer of Cannabiz, what does an average day look like for you?
Well right now it really feels like I’m wearing three different hats!
My most recent background has been more on the publishing side, but I trained as a journalist. I started my career in journalism, but for the last 15 or so years I’ve been on the publishing side of things. When we launched Cannabiz I had to remember all the tools I had learnt throughout my entire career.
At the moment we are doing a couple of things here at Cannabiz, we are always making sure that we maintain quality content that people want to read so I’m always checking our mail list, chatting to our chief correspondent, managing and looking through all of the press releases we receive, planning out all future content, and maybe even writing some stories of my own.
We have also begun to launch some awards, so we are talking to our sales department about potential sponsors and partners, so that’s more of the commercial side of things.
Then the third hat is all about talking to the social media team and our marketing team, checking out our digital presence and maintaining interest.
So, yeah! Three hats, except maybe the fourth is chatting to our operations manager and making sure that everything is running smoothly backstage. It’s a bit of a mixed bag at the moment!
It sounds like you’re wearing all the hats!
Yeah well, it’s a startup so you really do have to do a little bit of everything!
Speaking of your past experience working in publishing, how did your previous work prepare you for your current role?
In terms of journalism I would say I’m a bit rusty. I haven’t really written consistently for about ten years now, but it’s good to still have it in my armoury and I’m still able to write a reasonable tale and edit other people’s copy, and as I said it’s a startup so you really have to dust off your skills and get working.
My publishing background is really what gives me confidence in creating a viable business where people can get paid a decent salary and I can build a strong team, which I’ve been able to do in my previous roles.
It’s that publishing experience that is really key. You know, great content is always great, but unless you can make money then it’s a bit pointless really!
Did you always want a career in media?
No! Believe it or not I was a social worker back in the day, so I initially trained and qualified as a social worker but I kind of knew fairly soon that it wasn’t really for me. I went travelling for a year and also started writing during that time, because what is now a ‘blog’ was once called a diary.
I wrote a lot about my experiences and I realised that I actually quite liked doing that, so it was only after I came back from my trip that I decided to get into journalism, initially through the travel space.
You worked as a social worker?
Yes, I did a two year course in London and I worked as a social worker for about four or five years.
But yeah, once I took a career break I never really went back to it.
You first co-founded Cannabiz back in July 2020, what first inspired you to create a media platform dedicated to the legal cannabis industry?
It was a couple of things really. The first was that my business partner in Cannabiz actually was someone I knew through the travel industry and we were talking about my previous venture, Mumbrella, which I had just sold.
I knew I wanted to get started on something new so we started talking about travel, mind you this was pre-COVID. We then got onto talking about cannabis and, pardon the pun, its potential growth as an industry. I was a bit antsy at first since I had had some personal experiences with cannabis that weren’t the best so I wasn’t really that keen.
But then my brother-in-law, who has multiple sclerosis, was prescribed a cannabis-based spray to help him, and that was the first time that I really came across cannabis in a medicinal sense. That really began to pique my interest, and then I went to an advertising event in New York back in 2017 and of course it’s a very different atmosphere in the U.S.
There were entire streams dedicated to cannabis, there were celebrity chefs and popstars, and so then I began to read more about the media landscape for cannabis in Australia, and I didn’t really find anything.
There were some discussions on investors and there are of course many personal blogs about recreational use, but there wasn’t really anyone discussing the business of cannabis in Australia. It is in the U.S. and the U.K., but no one was doing it here.
It was that gap in the market that really got things moving, and we try to cover everything happening in the legal cannabis industry in Australia. We don’t want to restrict ourselves to just talking about the medical side of things since we will hopefully begin to see a slow legalisation of cannabis on a state level, and there’s also hemp which has a different legal framework entirely. We write about anyone and anything that is making legal money within the cannabis industry of Australia.
How do you think Australia currently views cannabis?
I don’t think there’s been a single country in the world where a politician has gone out on a limb to legalise recreational cannabis, or even medicinal. It’s always been ‘bottom-up’, and it’s only with ongoing public opinion and support where action gets made.
It was all the powerful stories that were being told by families and patients that helped propel the legalisation of medicinal use of cannabis. I think the same thing will happen soon with recreational use.
It’s a complex issue, but recent surveys are indicating that it’s getting closer and closer to the 50% mark of people in favour of legalisation. We also are getting so much more pro-legalisation discussions in parliament, so there’s representation at a state-level. I’m not seeing the state government leaping into action any time soon, though. It might not be this parliamentary system but it might be the next one! See in the next five years for progress, however I have also been saying that things will change ‘in five years’ for about three years now, so hopefully we are close to change!
Let’s see in a few years if you’re right!
It’s very hard to know, but I think that’s the direction it will go. It all just depends on speed.
If you could give your younger self some advice in working in this industry, what would it be?
That’s a really good question, because my younger self was in a very different publishing world to what it is like now. It was expensive and difficult to do something yourself, so you needed to find a printing press, then a distribution network, and so many more things that you had to sort out all on your own.
Compared to now, all you need is a laptop and there you go. You can build your own audience and you don’t always need expensive stuff to get started.
In terms of advice to my younger self though, I’d say to just get going! Find something you’re interested in, have a look at what else is out there and what other people are doing, since you’re only ever adding value to conversation if you’re not just another yes-man to countless other publications. Try and find your voice, and always do your research.
What has been your most memorable experience in your entire career, so far?
That’s a really difficult question to answer!
It might not be the most memorable, but being able to sell a publishing business, twice, has been really rewarding.
Building something that is so good that someone wants to buy it off you is a really good feeling, I have to say.
What are your pitching preferences? How do you prefer people to get into contact with you?
An email, but it’s all in the follow-up. I’m always happy to look at everything that comes my way and I’ll give you a call once I get the low-down.