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Join Our Research Team at DMA 2014
Dec 14, 2001
Interview

Sea Change: How INT Media is Lowering its Dependence on Online Ad Sales

SUMMARY: In an exclusive interview, INT Media's CEO Alan Meckler revealed to us that he's taking non-ad-based revenue development very seriously indeed these days. This marks a profound sea change for the Company, which is arguably the largest B-to-B publisher online. Less than a 12 months ago the company planned no further paid subscription offerings, now they may launch as many as 40. However, Meckler predicts the real money will not come from online subscriptions or ad sales.
As we mentioned in two weeks ago in our Case Study on INT Media's most famous paid subscription-based property, SearchEngineWatch (https://www.marketingsherpa.com/article.html?ident=22845), CEO Alan Meckler is taking non-ad-based revenue development very seriously indeed these days.

This marks a profound sea change for the Company, which is arguably the largest B-to-B media company online. Just 10 months ago, Meckler's then-head of acquisitions, Phillip Won, told ContentBiz, "Since day one we've always felt content should be free….. We just don't believe in the subscription model. Alan Meckler has always said if WSJ.com had our philosophy and did a non-subscription model from day one, they would be the biggest online media company in the world today without a doubt."

Meckler now says, "It's always been in the plan to offer paid subscriptions for elite services. SearchEngineWatch is really the prototype throughout our network. You'll have a free network, an email newsletter, and some elite service where you charge for elite information."

While we kind of doubt the "always been in the plan" part of that pronouncement, we are impressed with the strides INT Media has taken recently in the paid content arena.

Here's a quick outline of our recent conversation with Meckler (when a guy like Meckler emails you a brusque instruction to call him on his cell phone, you grab the opportunity):

1. In recent weeks INT Media has begin launching "elite" paid subscription services in a wide variety of its properties, including Wall Street Research Net (http://www.wsrn.com), The Counter (http://www.thecounter.com), and Windrivers (http://www.windrivers.com).

2. These are all priced fairly reasonably but are not dirt cheap, in fact, they are generally at about half the price a comparable print subscription would be in our experience. INT Media tentatively plans to bring up prices to match print levels over the next two years.

3. Meckler says sales so far have been highly encouraging. The Windrivers site, which has over a million free page views a day, is now converting nearly 300 paid subscribers per day. The paid subscription offer is only five weeks old, so this rate may decrease as the pool of early-adopters is mopped up.

According to Meckler several thousand people subscribe to WSRN's elite offering.

4. The plan now is to continue launching elite offerings every three months, until the Company publishes 30-40 paid subscription services. However, Meckler warns that "not every site has the type of information that lends itself to offering them." There are about 160 INT media owned-sites currently. So that means about a quarter of the properties could offer subscriptions.

5. Meckler's so sure the new model will work that he's already eyeing expansion into new turf with the model. His first truly non-Internet-business-related site is Nanotech Planet (http://www.nanotechplanet.com) which publishes a free email newsletter and will shortly offer subscription-only access to archives, a glossary, and a comprehensive nanotech-related contacts database. So, if you are in B-to-B trade publishing, watch for a Meckler site to open near you someday soon.

6. But the real money is in the real-world events. Seminars, conferences, highly targeted conventions, etc. Again taking a page from the SearchEngineWatch book, which sells approximately $400,000 a year in subscriptions, but an estimated $2.5 million in real-world event ticket sales and exhibitor booth space, INT Media is rolling out events for every niche.

The lovely thing is that marketing these events is so darn cheap when you already own millions upon millions of opt-in email addresses. As Meckler notes, "Before when I was running MecklerMedia [former owner of Internet World shows], 35% of every dollar that came in went out on direct mail. Now less than 5% of every dollar goes out on promotions because we have such large email inventory to promote with."

He adds, "You can't do with a magazine what you can do with email newsletters. We can found a focused site like Nanotech, that's got several thousand readers every day. There's no ad dollars right now, but through that site's fall seminar it's out of the box very successful financially. We launched Nanotech August 1st. We're announcing the second event this Friday, and next year taking it overseas."

In addition, his AllNetResearch and CyberAtlas properties try to sell readers related research reports using unsold ad space to the same captive email newsletter audiences.

7. 80211 Planet (http://www.80211-planet.com), which serves the wireless business community, is another example of easy online content profits, INT Media-style. Meckler says, "Someone will try a magazine here, but it won't be me. We have 10,000 subscribers to the newsletter now that sold over 200 seminar seats. That's a home run right out of the box. We're pretty excited."
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