SubHub client Russell Purvis runs Lab Bulletin, a web-based resource for scientists and laboratory professionals. He’s overseen the transition from print to digital-only format. Russell has been in scientific publishing for over twenty years. It used to be product-orientated journals, but ten years ago he 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, he doesn’t produce anything in print.

Free content business model

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.

Converting free content to revenue

Life Sciences is a very niche industry. Lab Bulletin has over 30,000 subscribers to the newsletters and around 20,000 monthly visitors to the site. The website charges for banner advertising, which is then linked to Google doubleclick, providing analysis and metrics. If advertisers are paying you, you need to show them how effective their investment is. Russell also generates 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 with revenue growing 35-40% per year. It was all a learning curve to begin with, but Russell says going online was a natural shift. He conducts an annual review of the site – adding new areas or tweaking functionality, developing as needed.

Revenue types

When asked what advice he’d offer to people interested in starting their own online publication, Russell says “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 membership website successfully converting free online content into a revenue stream. Growing an audience and becoming a trusted voice within their niche has attracted a considerable marketing income.