John Audette is one of the Web’s most successful content pioneers. His content model was simple yet revolutionary -- create heavily moderated online discussion groups publishing emailed questions and answers (ie. reader letters) from top professionals in a particular field. Then sell ads in it! Using this model Audette launched and profitably sold two companies in quick succession -- he’s now on his third.
Q: Can you describe how your business model works and how you invented it?
Audette: AudetteMedia is a holding company. Presently we have one company operational and will launch another in September. The operational company is called Adventive and is engaged in the publishing of discussion lists for Internet professionals. Lists include: I-Sales, I-PR, I-Search, I-HR, and four others. We currently publish and moderate discussion lists with 200,000+ subscribers. The lists are advertiser supported and are free to subscribers.
Q: When launching a moderated email discussion group like yours, how many participants do you need to start with to help it flourish from the get-go?
Audette: You can get started with very few, provided the moderator is prepared to furnish most of the content for a while. Things start to fly under their own power with as few as 500 subscribers.
Q: How do you get highly-qualified participants who will write great content to join?
Audette: In the past we have always depended on word of mouth. We now have a section on the Adventive website where we highlight a Featured Contributor, which tends to encourage participation.
Q: Do advertisers see the value of sponsoring this type of content? Have attitudes been changing?
Audette: Yes. I-Sales is normally 100% booked. We have found that the consolidation that is occurring in the dot com world, with the concomitant shrinking of marketing budgets, has motivated advertisers to look for more marketing solutions more cost-effective than banner advertising -- and finely targeted discussion lists are working well for them.
Q: Are there ways you can repurpose this content to sell it or sell ads against it in other formats? Also, are you planning any brand extensions that aren't online discussion groups?
Audette: Yes, plans are not ready to be revealed at this time.
Q: How much staff time does it take to run the average group? How do you train people to be able to moderate your groups?
Audette: We have extensive experience in this area. I founded and have moderated the I-Sales Discussion List since 1995. And my son Adam moderates the 150,000+ LinkExchange Digest under contract with Microsoft. Our moderators are very carefully selected (the moderator is the key to a good list) and those of us who have been doing it for a while share our knowledge.
Q:What are your top 3 tips for moderating groups like this to keep discussions flowing and useful to recipients?
Audette: (1) Create a nurturing environment. Don't allow personal attacks, rants, flames, etc. maintain a professional atmosphere. (2) Know when to prolong a discussion thread -- and when to kill one. (3) Know how to stimulate discussion when the need arises.
Q: You've been launching into some new areas recently that go beyond your original audience of Internet marketers, such as HR for human resources people. Will you continue to launch into non-marketing topics?
Q: What's next for Audette Media?
Later in September we launch a new company called Metaventive (site is being built). Metaventive offers a largely turnkey solution for e-publishers. Services offered include: - List hosting - List administration and maintenance - Accounting (I/O's, invoicing and A/R) - Advertising sales - Subscription development
We are still in the process of establishing a pricing structure for Metaventive. We intend to be competitive with other comparable services, but we will not be the cheapest solution. Conversations with numerous e-publishers keep pointing to one area where all other service providers are deficient at one time or another -- service. We are structuring Metaventive to be a highly responsive, highly personalized, service solution for e-publishers.
The real upside for Metaventive, as with most publishers, is realized by establishing revenues from advertising sales. We don't have formulas set yet, but my sense is that we will work on some kind of split of ad revenues, with a minimum amount due us each month which will help to cover our hosting expenses.
* Ed. Note: Want to learn more? John’s thoughtfully posted his “Sweet 16 Principals for Building a Successful Internet Business” at his Web site. For free access go to the link below.
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