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Brian Sozzi's path to 350 million page views at Yahoo Finance

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Brian Sozzi rode into Yahoo Finance at the beginning of 2019 as a man on a mission — to help investors understand the complexities of the markets while interviewing the world's top executives, strategists, and entrepreneurs.

After three and a half years of blowing up the Yahoo Finance content management system, Sozzi penned over five thousand articles and notched over 350 million article views. Fifty-eight of those articles earned more than one million clicks, with the top story garnering nearly four million views.

According to Sozzi, he's just getting started.

What makes one of the most prolific writers at Yahoo Finance spring out of bed each morning, hours before the crack of dawn? We asked him in a recent episode of Yahoo Finance Uncut.

Back in the day, Sozzi was a stock analyst at Wall Street Strategies — building spreadsheet models, combing malls, and counting shopping bags. Always embracing field work, he conducted on-the-ground retail recon at companies like Macy's (M), Walmart (WMT) and Sears (it was a while ago).

Fresh to finance, the nine-to-five lifestyle wouldn't work for Sozzi. For the first six months of the analyst gig, many days he'd bolt to the office at 4:00 am and never leave. "Fifteen-plus years into my career, I do know what I'm doing and I'm not sleeping in the office anymore. But [Yahoo Finance] is a different job," he says.

Being a financial reporter comes with different challenges, but Sozzi leverages the skills he learned years ago. Sozzi says there are two key pillars to a great interview. "I take every interview as if, (1) it's my last big interview, and then (2), [I imagine] it's the last time I will ever get to talk to these people for one reason or another. So with that as my backdrop, I then prepare as if I was getting ready to write an equity research report."

Pressed for details on how he lands big interviews, Sozzi again takes it back to his roots as an analyst.

Sozzi talks to sources who are familiar with big business leaders, and he reads the latest research notes. "After a while — just doing this for a long time, in general — you get a sense of what to ask and what not to ask," he says, adding: "At the end of the day, we only have a finite period with these executives, and you don't want to ask some dumb question that nobody even cares about."

Any interview conducted in this challenging economic environment will focus on recession and higher interest rates — both top of mind for investors and companies alike. But in his back pocket, Sozzi also keeps a laundry list of relevant questions suitable for a C-suite interview.

"What are you doing with your dividend? Are you going to be buying back your stock? How's the pandemic impacted you personally? How have you built your teams to be more inclusive coming on the other side of the pandemic? What are you doing on ESG?"

From there, just fine tune the questions to make them company-specific, he says.

Sozzi also gives props to the mentors he's worked for over the years — Larry Kramer (founder of MarketWatch), Jim Cramer (CNBC anchor and co-founder of The Street), and Andy Serwer (Yahoo Finance's current editor-in-chief). He likens his bosses to the "Mount Rushmore" of financial media.

"I've tried to take a lot of these [insights] and just incorporate [them] into my own repertoire and put my own spin on it," he says.

But it's not all work and no play for Sozzi. Sozzi has a love for cars that was born in his youth, playing with Hot Wheels matchbook miniatures. He still recalls his first real motorized vehicle — a 1991 Pontiac Trans Am.

"I bought that car in cash. Because I was a golf caddy for 10 plus years, I saved up a lot of money to buy that car. It was a couple-thousand dollars at the time. That's a lot of money," he said, reminiscing about the lessons learned.

"I know it reminds me [of] how hard I've had to work — seemingly since I was the age of 13," Sozzi says. "Nothing was given to me. It has been blood, sweat and tears for going on — wow — three decades of my life."

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