Traditional print media has been in decline for a number of years with more and more publications switching their focus online. Stats from the Pew Research Center suggest it’s a growing trend with 50% of Americans now seeing the internet as their main news source.
Potentially, this conversion opens the door to worldwide audiences, creating more effective communication at a fraction of the cost. In short, it’s a popular move that makes good business sense.
SubHub customer Russell Purvis runs Lab Bulletin, a web-based resource for scientists and laboratory professionals. He’s overseen the transition from print to digital and is certain that it’s the way forward. He states: “I’ve been in scientific publishing for over twenty years. It used to be product-orientated journals, but around five or six years ago I noticed a massive shift towards people investing more of their budget online where costs are lower and information can get published a lot quicker. These days, we don’t produce anything in print.”
Russell’s business model is built around providing free content to the end user, which may sound odd at first, but this is the key principle that appeals to advertisers. At a basic level, the bigger your audience, the more valuable your ad space.
He continues: “Life Sciences is a very niche industry. We have over 30,000 subscribers to the newsletters and around 20,000 monthly visitors to the site, which isn’t a huge amount of traffic but it’s good enough. We charge for banner advertising, which is then linked to Google doubleclick, allowing us to analyse the metrics – if advertisers are paying you, you need to show them how effective their investment is. We also generate reports for the number of clicks on sponsored content within each newsletter.”
In stark contrast to the diminishing power of print media, Lab Bulletin has gone from strength to strength. Russell informs: “Our revenue has been growing 35-40% per year. It was all a learning curve to begin with, but going online was a natural shift and we normally conduct an annual review of the site – adding new areas or tweaking functionality, developing it as we see fit.”
When asked what advice he’d offer to people interested in starting their own online publication, he replied: “There are two ways of generating revenue with this type of business – either sponsorship in terms of advertising, or through subscribers paying a fee. We’ve gone down the route of charging suppliers to promote their goods, rather than charging the reader, and I think this helps drive traffic to us.
“We don’t charge for putting content on the actual website, because we don’t want to limit ourselves to purely running information on those manufacturers happy to pay for it. We run free editorial all the time, providing up to date industry news and promoting exhibitions that will interest to our readers. This, in turn, helps us grow, because promoting such events also puts us in touch with the delegates who attend.”
Lab Bulletin is a prime example of a company successfully converting free content into cash. Growing an audience and becoming a trusted voice within their niche has attracted a considerable marketing income.
Howard Gossage, nicknamed the Socrates of San Francisco, was an influential advertiser during the ‘Mad Man’ era.
He once famously quipped: “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.”