An award-winning media executive with a background in business development, content strategy, sales, and marketing, Howard Mittman is the founder and CEO of Record Scratch. He launched the New York-based consulting firm in 2020 and has curated a diverse group of professionals who assist clients seeking to keep up with the ever-changing marketplace. Mittman previously served in executive capacities at Bleacher Report and Condé Nast. The former was named one of Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies during his tenure as CEO.
Howard Mittman was at Bleacher Report for three years, first as chief revenue officer and chief marketing officer and then as CEO. He oversaw profit and loss for the 600-employee company following its acquisition by WarnerMedia. Among other accomplishments, Mittman oversaw substantial revenue growth and youth audience engagement via a renewed focus on data analytics and metrics. Moreover, Bleacher Report had the highest social media engagement across all sports media brands in 2019 and 2020.
Through 11 years at Condé Nast, Mittman rose from associate publisher of WIRED to chief business officer of ALPHA, which included publications such as GQ, Golf Digest, WIRED, and Pitchfork. He implemented effective initiatives to increase subscription revenue and ad sales for all properties and created engaging events for fashion media brands. He also evaluated strategic investments, including the company’s acquisition of Ars Technica and Reddit.
Prior to joining Condé Nast, Mittman worked as an advertising director at Time Inc. He has additional media experience as a dot-com account director at New York magazine. He has been named Publisher of the Year by Adweek Media and Advertising Age and is a member of the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Achievement, as well as the Media Industry News Hall of Fame. Mittman holds a bachelor of arts in journalism from The Ohio State University and is an avid fan of the school’s sports teams.
Where did the idea for Record Scratch come from?
Every executive has been there. Business is going well. Employees are happy, your revenue is climbing, and your customers and the press are singing your praises.
Everything seems perfect, but you know it’s not.
You know something is lurking. The market is changing. You know your business needs a change in strategy, but you’re too focused on this month, this quarter, or this year. You know your team needs to evolve, but you don’t have enough time to devote to long-term strategy. You know your company is about to hit a wall, but you need an outside perspective to help you architect a transformation, or to help you harness the power of looming disruption.
Then it happens: the record scratch.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I like to work out in the morning, so I usually wake up before my wife and children and pour a cup of coffee. It’s a perfect time to look over emails from the West Coast or from international partners and friends. From there, it’s a mix of client meetings, video conferencing, and phone calls.
I’m a big believer in getting your steps in each day, so I take as many calls as possible while walking through Central Park, or alongside the East River. I try to build in quiet time in my calendar and to make time for my boys. I see them off to school every morning and try to make as many of their sporting games as my schedule will allow. Technology can be a leash if you let it, but it can also empower you to find and make more time for things outside of work that matter.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a visual person and a natural storyteller. I generally like to use visual prompts to help find creative ways to make stories come to life. However, sometimes the best way to bring ideas to life is to have a vision and to share it with talented people around you. If you give great people room to excel and run with those ideas themselves, you are often surprised and delighted with something better than you would have done on your own.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m fascinated by how many smart, talented creators and businesspeople are going off on their own right now. Whether it’s the Creator Economy, or Web3, or some combination of the two, there has not been this much unique thinking and enthusiasm for charting a new path since the explosion of the internet in the mid to late 90’s. I don’t pretend to know exactly where all of this goes, but it is likely as important to the future of news and information as the invention and availability of the laptop and broadband distribution was.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I read and consume an insane amount of information and actively work hard to keep my filter bubble as open and diverse as possible.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The Alarm was a better band than U2.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I constantly “pitch” myself in my head. I act as if I am a customer and I try to give myself an elevator pitch. Sometimes I pitch my business, sometimes I pitch other businesses, and often I make up a product and pitch it in my brain. Often, the nuggets, phrases, and points I make to myself end up being used in my day-to-day business activities. Even when they don’t, it keeps me sharp. I like to think of it as “business improv.”
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Lean on friends. Most of my clients come through recommendations from friends, or former clients who have become friends. It’s not what you know, or who you know. It’s both.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Know your worth. Recognize that your pricing reflects your ability, your knowledge, and your experience. If someone wants to negotiate the price of your services, you need to evaluate if this is a partnership you want to engage in and determine what services you will take off the table. Never negotiate price; instead, negotiate value and services offered. Never take your price down and offer the same services at a lower rate.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
In a work-from-home world, the need for home office furniture and equipment is exploding. It surprises me that more companies aren’t offering subsidies for the build-out of their employees’ home offices. Some are, but I’m certain more will over time.
I know there are a few furniture companies trying to fill the gap, but I think there is space for someone to work across various suppliers and manufacturers and create corporate accounts with large and medium sized businesses. This would eliminate the need for employees to pay taxes on stipends and could create some measure of control on where and how the money is spent. For the employees, it’s a free shopping trip to the home office store of the future. Logistics at this scale bores me, so I won’t pursue it, but I think someone should.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A bottle of Hibiki Harmony whisky. The Japanese whisky brands really know what they’re doing.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I love the Headspace app. It helps me find space and calm when I need it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari. It explains almost everything you need to know about the universe and humanity’s place inside it.
What is your favorite quote?
“We will suffer more in our imaginations than in reality.” – Seneca
- If you have a vision, share it with the talented people around you, and let them run with it. The results may be better than if you kept your idea to yourself.
- Know your worth, and charge customers and clients accordingly. Never negotiate price, only value and scope of services.
- Practice pitching to yourself in your head—pitch your company, product, another business, or a new idea. This exercise can yield great points, language or phrasing, and insights that you can use in real life.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.