- By Topic
Fierce Markets, an e-content publisher and division of Questex Media Group, tapped Maurice Bakley as the company’s new president this past December, a move that has so far paid off. The company is reporting that half year revenue has increased by 30 percent year-over-year, and core audience metrics (newsletter subscribers and website visitors) have also jumped by 20 percent year-over-year. Here, AD checks in with Bakley to examine the strategy behind this growth, and what the company is looking at for the future.
Audience Development (AD): You came into the role of Fierce Markets president on January 3. This year Fierce Markets launched its 41st publication and the fourth in your government group, FierceMobileGovernment, in addition to launching FierceCRO in the niche life sciences market. Both were reversed-financed launches. Can you explain how these work, and the business model for them?
Maurice Bakley (pictured): We identify the niche, put a proposal of what the publication will be and then we go to an existing advertiser base and ask them to essentially underwrite that launch.
We’ve been hearing a lot over the last 12 months and seeing shows, events and social media conversations about mobility in government. We identified this as a trend, as something that was emerging. All of the information needs and buzz was out there for FierceMobileGovernment, but we wanted to also validate that there was an advertiser or vendor demand for that kind of venue. We talk with a number of our advertising clients that we’ve worked with in the past and we got them excited about the idea and asked them, essentially, if they would underwrite the launch.
We give them exclusivity in terms of shared voice with the advertising units—email and Web ads. We also put in lead generation guarantees so they can feel that even though it’s a new publication that they will get something tangible they can hold us to over the course of a six-month sponsorship. The exclusivity of getting a new, fresh publication and the lead generation that comes with it makes it more of a sure thing, if you will, and seems to work well for people.
We’ve done this a lot, actually, over the last four to five years. We actually do much more of this now than we do random launches that aren’t pre-funded because we find that having the extra market validation not only tells us we’re on to something right when it comes to content, but that it will have legs beyond three months and that there is a legitimate market need that needs to be served.
AD: Where are these publications starting in terms of audience size?
Bakley: We start out small. Fierce has always grown organically so typically we look at our user database and identify people we think have the best potential. In the case of something like MobileGovernment, we’re not only looking at our government subscribers but other government folks that maybe throughout FierceWireless or FierceMobileContent—people who have a clear affinity for the topic. We will invite them to the newsletter, but we don’t force people onto anything. We’re aware of the amount of email everyone receives so we want people to say they are interested in it and that they want to receive it.
AD: Let’s talk about your CMS overhaul for your 40 publications from Drupal5 to Drupal6. How has that helped your discoverability on the Internet, and what kind of role does the CMS play in today’s content production operations?
Bakley: The last time we redesigned our sites was in 2007 and we went from having individually siloed cites to more of a network or families of sites that were dedicated to different vertical audiences. In the telcom-market, for example, we have 11 publications that serve some facet of telecommunications.
We felt it was time to do another refresh and get us on Drupal 6. In terms of SEO, we’re still working on that—we put our last group up in June and we’ve seen positive effects in some areas and we’re now doing an SEO project to dig down and understand how we can get the best from the ones that have had a positive impact.
In terms of trends, we’re in sort of a unique position because, for the first six years of the company we were just email newsletters, not even websites as you would think of it presently. We spent a lot of time getting used to being a Web-first content company. I would say the CMS has become much more central.
As the content demands of the news cycle increases, we have to deal with social media and be able to track how users came to our site and we have to integrate more photos and info-graphics. Those things are demanded by the market, and users are more accustomed to images and social sharing tools and trending topics, which then pushes into the demands of the CMS and the demands of the editor. The CMS is no longer just way to manage lots of content, but it’s a workflow tool.
We still have to do a lot on top of Drupal to meet the demands that are being put on our editors that fuel our business. The ability to tag, insert photos, quickly integrate with social media and even copy editing, we’ve had to add that in. Our development team has built the FierceCMS, which is a layer that sits on top of the Drupal CMS.
It’s a software that we’ve developed to pull content from the Drupal CMS into our specific newsletter templates that incorporate content and ads, which hooks up to our email service provider. It also adds on a layer of tracking capabilities—the CMS automatically allows us to do that so editors don’t have to put tracking codes on each link.
AD: Audience metrics are up 20 percent year-over-year and revenue by 30 percent. Where are you seeing that growth from?
Bakley: A lot of it is culture—as a digital only shop from day one we’ve always had a sense that editors are real engines to what we do and they hold the key to growing the audience. We put goals out there against visits and email opens and subscriber numbers. We put goals on each editorial group and give incentives for hitting those. We track them each month and throughout the course of the year. We also do monthly sub goals that might relate to cross team collaboration or social media. I attribute a lot of our growth to that and to the fact that we’re big about setting goals and going after them.
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