Nick Phillips: From Hollywood To Cannabis

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Nick Phillips – Editor and Chief of MarijuanaTimes.org

Nick Phillips, the Editor and Chief of MarijuanaTimes.org, spent a good part of his early professional career working under the bright lights of Hollywood’s movie business. After years of rubbing elbows with celebrities and directors, Nick left the hustle and bustle of the Hollywood life behind to enter the marketing world. Eight years later, Nick is the Editor and Chief of the newly formed MarijuanaTimes.org, an online publication aimed at the positive portrayal of the cannabis industry, while maintaining a level of objectivity that few others are providing in the space. MarijuanaTimes.org aims to fill a void in the reporting of the cannabis industry by providing a voice where there previously was none. Just how exactly do they plan on accomplishing that goal? How did Nick Phillips get to where he is today? Well, we sat down with Nick to ask him all about it.

What was the deciding factor for you to enter the cannabis industry?

It was a pretty easy decision for me. We put this project, MarijuanaTimes.org together as a way to try to enter the media scene. Our founders, CEO Dr. David Toomey, COO Matthew Mills and our Med-X, Inc. Board of Directors came together and said to me, “Let’s build a digital magazine as part of our business model. I said, “Sounds exciting, I can start working and building this immediately”.

What were you doing before starting Marijuana Times?

Before starting with Med-X, Inc., our sister company Pacific Shore Holdings, Inc. and developing the Marijuana Times platform, I worked in the Hollywood movie business in a number of different capacities. After that I transitioned into a marketing career if you will. I have been in the digital marketing space for the past 8 years. I’m still doing a lot of that stuff too.

I’m the Editor and Chief of this particular media project, but I’m also still marketing a number of other digital platforms daily. I do digital marketing for consumer product goods and B2B, in addition to a good amount of creative, digital content. We do a lot of packaging projects as well. Essentially, I come from a background of digital marketing and digital creative.

I’ve had the good fortune to have been around big celebrities like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Arnold Schwarzenegger, just to name a few.  

What were some of the things that you were doing out in Hollywood?

I was working on movies, TV shows, commercials, music videos and all sorts of other, more traditional productions. I used to help run one of the studios in Culver City and then I later worked for another studio in Hollywood. In that capacity, I was running the sound stages and equipment department.  All of the equipment that was being used on big movies, TV shows and commercials came through our department. Through that experience, I got to know and work with a lot of big producers, crew members and talent. I worked in that business for a long time, eventually I got sick of it and moved on to the next stage of my life.

Do you have a favorite story? Did you ever get to meet anyone that resonated with you?

The projects that resonated most with me would have to be the music videos. We worked on so many music videos with different rap artists, like Kanye West and Snoop Dogg. Those guys pretty much had free reign to do whatever they wanted, which made for an interesting experience each time out. Some of them would party and carry on until all hours in the night. No matter what, anytime you work a music video, you’re looking at a 30-hour day. Outside of the music business, I’ve had the good fortune to have been around big celebrities like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Arnold Schwarzenegger, just to name a few.  

Is there a celebrity that you met that was nicer than you expected?

I’ve met a good amount of professional athletes that I thought might big league me, but most of them turned out to be super nice surprisingly. For example, we were shooting a big commercial for Adidas and the power ended up going out. We had celebrity athletes like Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and a couple other big Adidas guys at the time. When the power went out in the studio, everyone ended up going out to the street parking lot because it was so hot. It was about 95 degrees out, as it was the middle of summer in LA, so the sound stages were just boiling.

These athletes decided they were going to have races on the golf carts.

These athletes decided they were going to have races on the golf carts. It was great. You see all these high profile celebs racing down the street in golf carts trying to kill time. I always thought it was pretty funny how they all just acted like big kids. They were all so friendly and nice. Every single one of them was genuinely cool.

Can you tell me about the point where you realized that the green rush was coming?

Personally, I’ve always believed that it was simply a matter of time before culture forced this change to happen. However, it wasn’t until I was older and increased my business knowledge that I was able to fully understand the complexity of the situation and why it takes so long for systems like this to change. Over the past few years, I have especially noticed the strides being made by states like Colorado and Washington; they are truly embracing the lifestyle and making that recreational leap. Given these examples coupled with the company we keep here at Med-X, Inc., I fully believe that a more widespread acceptance and legalization of cannabis is going to come fast.

Where are you guiding your passion and energy? When you wake up, what are you doing all day?

I typically get my day started by doing a bit of reading so as to stay on top of what’s going on in and out of the industry. I usually have meetings with my management team and content contributors as well as attending to other creative staff to go over what the daily routine is going to be. Then we highlight various ideas or projects, creating storyboards when needed or just brainstorm new ideas and how to execute.

That usually encompasses the first part of my day. After lunch I get in my personal heavy lifting as far as managerial duties; reports, analytics and other responsibilities. Then at the end of the day I try to have a little bit of fun with the team. Overall, we just have fun with this whole thing. It’s great subject matter and a very interesting industry. Everyone working on the project is super-passionate about the cannabis industry, as well as our mission as a group. We have a lot of laughs and really it’s been a lot of fun so far.

The most important thing people need to realize is that it’s not going away. It’s not going to go in the other direction. Cannabis is only going to be talked about more, studied more, researched more and covered more in the media.

Where does your passion come from? What drives you every day?

In general, I’m a content person to the core. I’m very interested in a lot of things, not just this particular green rush or the whole cannabis push. For me, I’m a reader and a knowledge-based person, so my inspiration on this particular subject matter comes from two main things. Number one, I think there’s a lack of content out there. Number two, my inspiration comes from those people who are just so much more passionate about cannabis than even I am.  Working with them and listening to their ideas gets me all fired up.

These people constantly come up with new ideas and really want to get out there and have their finger on the pulse of the industry. That’s where my passion comes from. The added bonus is seeing the final project come together. Seeing that people are actually reading it and interacting on social media. That combination fuels the fire.

What’s the overall vision for Marijuana Times?

Our overall vision is to represent the industry in a pro-cannabis light while being as objective as we possibly can. Ideally, we want to cover all sides of the industry and use it as a tool to add a voice where, in our opinion, there’s a voice lacking. We are covering stories and ideas that we think are important to the cannabis community, allowing us to help in the war of information against all the negative pressures surrounding cannabis. We feel that, by being our own publisher, we can not only have our own voice but also offer a vessel for others to share their positive message. Controlling our own content affords us the chance to keep that information and media aimed in the direction that we think most benefits the industry.

What’s your target demographic? Who are you trying to reach with these stories?

Right now, our goal is simply to reach people who want more information on the subject matter. There are so many different angles that we cover, everything from news, legislation, and science to technology and culture. Additionally, we will also have some video projects in the works.

Our main demo is a reader who is interested in learning more about medical cannabis or the cannabis industry in general.

People are finding us because they’re looking for the specific topics that we are talking about. They stumble across the website and are sharing it on social media. We truly are covering a wide range of people and information, but our main demo is a reader who is interested in learning more about medical cannabis or the cannabis industry in general.

If you were in a room with other digital publications and you needed to explain your angle and why people would go to Marijuana Times to get their information as opposed to some other new source in the space, what would your pitch be?

We are a very objective source for cannabis information, mixed with a little bit of op-ed to try and get some really hard hitting, interesting conversations started. As we develop further, the quality of the content is only going to increase. As that happens, my goal is to make Marijuana Times the hardest hitting, edgiest and most interesting content you can find on the subject matter. For the time being, especially while we are in the growing stages, we are more focused on pumping up the content to spread the word.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t be lazy.

I’ve been given lots of advice over the years. For me, all that information has morphed into the advice that I tend to give other people. The number one piece of advice I give out, when people ask me for it, is ‘Don’t be lazy.’ That is especially important in this business, as well as in digital marketing, social media, content creation and video production. You have to put in the work, and sometimes it is a lot of work.

The second bit of advice I like to give out is to be patient because this business is a marathon. In this digital age, we tend to think that stuff happens overnight, but it just doesn’t. You really have to be willing to work and put that time in. You have to put your head down and outlast the other person.

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How do think your diverse background has helped you develop Marijuana Times?

My background has helped me be able to feel more confident. Knowing a little bit about everything allows you to get the respect from your employees, peers and other people in the business. I’ve been doing this long enough that I feel like it doesn’t really matter who I am talking to or what I’m strategizing about. I feel like we’re right there with anybody. Our management’s extensive background adds a level of confidence that you can properly cover and market any project, idea, subject matter or topic.

Can you suggest a book that our readers can benefit from reading?

The Thank You Economy’ – by Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary does a great job breaking down why social media and quality content is important, even older demographics can fully understand what he is talking about. He really breaks down what’s happening in the digital landscape and shares his ideas on customers. He’s become very successful because of this book and it would be an excellent read for anyone who wants to learn about marketing and the digital space.

How would you describe your work ethic in one word?

Busy!

I guess it’s not that exciting of a word, but I mainly just try to do a good job, work my butt off and stay on track. It’s easy to get derailed and thrown off track these days.

Who is the person that you would consider a role model like a mentor? How have they impacted you?

When it comes to digital, I have a handful of people that have been influential. I have a family member who helped me get into this part of the business. Years ago, we started a company that helped other small businesses with their digital presence, SEO and content creation. This was back in the day when Google’s organic SEO was different than it is today. That family member was very influential.

From a content perspective as far as the mentor goes, I follow a lot of people and I read a lot. Shane Smith, from Vice, is doing great work with digital content, digital media and news. I think he is an amazing person. Vice is a business that I look up to as far as going up against the giants, being a game changer and dominating competitors in a space that no one thought was possible.

One thing that I’m proud of is that all of the companies I have worked with have been able to grow and become successful. That has led me to feel really good about what I do.

I enjoy people like Shane or Elon Musk, for example, who are constantly being told what they can’t do it, but they chose to enter the market their own way, with their own flair. They have not only survived, they have flourished.

Those are the kind of stories and the kind of people that I follow on a regular everyday basis. I listen to them because, if you’re going to go into publishing or content, you’re going to go up against a gazillion other publishers. You really have to have a unique perspective and unique vision and I think Shane and Elon are good examples of that these days.

If you could go back in time 10 years ago to a younger version of yourself, what would you tell him that would make him a more successful entrepreneur today?

Even when I was younger, I was a visionary. I would probably tell myself to relax a little bit. I was pretty gung-ho in the movie business 10 years ago. On the flip side of that, I had already started my own business at that age, so there isn’t too much I would have changed. I’m not the type of person who looks back and thinks about what they could have done differently.

Can you tell us about an esteemed achievement of yours? What’s something that you’re very proud of?

One thing that I’m proud of is that all of the companies I have worked with have been able to grow and become successful. That has led me to feel really good about what I do.

If I had to name one specific instance that sticks out, I would probably mention a promotion I put together for one of our companies on Twitter. The campaign went viral, blew up and crashed the Twitter account. That was a fun accomplishment.

We had to shut down our servers and our Twitter account because it got overrun with traffic.

My boss looked at me and said, “I wanted you to make it go crazy but I didn’t know you’d make it go that crazy.” We had to shut down our servers and our Twitter account because it got overrun with traffic.

What do you think the most important thing is for the general public to know now about the legal cannabis industry?

The most important thing people need to realize is that it’s not going away. It’s not going to go in the other direction. Cannabis is only going to be talked about more, studied more, researched more and covered more in the media. I think that acceptance and understanding is probably most important right now. People need to know that the rescheduling of cannabis is going to happen. Let’s accept it and move on.

I fully believe that a more widespread acceptance and legalization of cannabis is going to come fast.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

If you have a great story to tell or interesting topics to share, reach out and get in touch with us. We are always looking to expand our coverage and hear what the cannabis community has to say. Like I said, one of the services we want to provide the cannabis industry is a vessel for others to share their story.

Do you have a story you would like to share with MarijuanaTimes.org? What do you think about their new online platform? Join the conversation and comment below!

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