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If you're a Millennial with an Instagram account (and let's face it, the two go hand-in-hand), or Gen Z or even Gen X, then there's a very good chance you're one of the 400,000 following @thedailyaus. For many of us, checking The Daily Aus became a habit during anxiety-ridden COVID-19 lockdowns as we waited each morning for that signature boldly colored square to deliver the latest case numbers. The formula was accessible and easily digested.
But it wasn't just COVID-19 updates; according to its website, The Daily Aus social channel is the primary source of news for 70 percent of followers. That's a sizeable proportion of the nation's young people tuning into a news source that didn't even exist six years ago.
Zara Seidler is one half of The Daily Aus' founding duo, and she's packed a lot into her career so far – from negotiating content deals between major TV news channels to developing policies and events for Australia's peak medical research body, to being named as part of Forbes magazine's '30 Under 30'. So, it makes sense that she has a knack for turning complex information into bite-sized posts!
With a background in news and politics, a passion for accessibility and a natural tendency to brief friends on current events prior to their dates (that's what sparked the idea for The Daily Aus in the first place) Zara represents the changing face of media in Australia. Here, we talk to her about taking risks, the “myth of apathy” and why she loves not following anyone on TikTok.
The pathway to an incredible career
Seidler has been passionate from the start, recalling: “[As a young girl] I was always loud and always opinionated. My family, friends and teachers can all attest to the fact that I've always had a very strong sense of what I believe in, and boy do I make that known to people!”
However, journalism, entrepreneurialism and politics weren't initially on her career radar. “When I finished school, I thought that I wanted to be a teacher,” she tells MECCA. “But I was also really intrigued and interested in politics and ultimately decided to indulge that curiosity a bit and studied political science at university.”
Finding female mentors in a male-dominated industry
"When I look back on my (albeit short) career, I'm struck by the fact that every single one of my bosses to date has been a woman, even in those notoriously male-dominated industries," says Seidler. "It's obviously hard to retrospectively assign meaning to something, but I think having strong women guide me in those early days gave me the blueprint I needed on how to navigate something like building my own business and disrupting an industry."
And Seidler has had a first-hand view of how young women are perceived in business: "Certainly, I think society's perception of some young women is changing, but it's still a really specific cohort," she says. “There is a lot of improvement to go when it comes to providing a platform and a space for stories of diverse – and indeed intersectional – feminism.”
Being bold – and being loud
Starting a new business is always a gamble – and our instincts often lead us to shy away from risk. “Taking risks was not something that came naturally and did in fact have to be learned,” confirms Seidler. “The only way to learn a new skill – let's call risk-taking a skill in this instance – is to really practise it. And that's exactly what I did.”
Her advice for young women? Start small: "I tasked myself with taking one 'risk' a fortnight, and I really tried to expand my understanding of what counted as a risk too. I read this a few months ago in the Harvard Business Review and it has really stuck with me: 'The majority of studies that point to men having a greater inclination for risk-taking define risk in physical and financial terms. They don't point to risks like standing up for what's right in the face of opposition or taking the ethical path when there's pressure to stray — important risks that I've found women are particularly strong at taking.'”
Another quality that's served Seidler well is being unfraid to express herself. “As for my loudness, I think I can attribute that to having three older brothers,” she says, recalling, “Growing up, my family dinner table was always full of loud and lively debates – mostly political – which meant I quickly stretched that muscle!”
Adds Seidler, "We're really trying to disrupt the media industry and for me, that extends to how I present myself. It means that I feel comfortable pushing boundaries both professionally and personally.”
The myth of apathetic young people
Particularly in political circles, there's a persistent impression that youth are disinterested and disengaged from the issues of the day – and the political process itself. But Seidler begs to differ: “It is completely a myth, and it is a myth that has been perpetuated by those who either can't – or won't – engage with the next generation. The Daily Aus speaks to hundreds of thousands of young people every single day and one thing is clear: they care deeply around the world around them. This is especially true when it comes to political engagement.”
She adds, “At the last election, a record number of young people enrolled to vote. Young people want to be involved in the conversations that will shape their futures – they've just been traditionally cut out of them.”
The topics that matter to young people today
Working 18-hour days, sustainably
Why @thedailyaus is just so engaging
Central to The Daily Aus' mission is “accessibility”: “We started The Daily Aus off the back of frustrations around how much assumed knowledge there was in legacy media publications. Our philosophy is that everyone should be able to understand and engage with the news, regardless of what level of knowledge they're coming with.”
Another secret to the channel's success is its focus on untapped audiences: “We also try to target more 'passive' news consumers by creating engaging, social-first content so that it's not just the people seeking out news who will find us,” she explains.