Content is King!  Bill Gates predicted that way back in 1996. Publishers no longer focus solely on a subscription-based model. They are now developing strategies to drive revenue with their in-demand, niche content.

Creating that great content and then deciding how to package, distribute and repurpose it to your customers is the key to long-term success.

We recently interviewed Ben Lando, Publisher of the Iraq Oil Report, on what’s working now to drive revenue and connect with readership.

Quality content and how to package it

Ben: “Our business model begins with the premise that, in traditional news operations, too much reporting ends up on the cutting room floor. That information has value to readers; it’s just a question of figuring out who those readers are and how to package it in the ways they’ll find most useful.

For example, let’s say one of our reporters gets information about a militia that’s involved in smuggling a very small amount of oil. If we’re looking at Iraq from the wide-angle perspective of a lay-reader, that information is probably only going to make it into a story if it’s part of a trend – and in that case, the information is going to be heavily summarized.

But if we look at Iraq through the eyes of the foreign companies or NGOs who are operating in the area of that oil smuggling, the smallest details of that criminal operation could help them make important decisions. They’ll actually pay more money for the information that most people would find too boring to merit inclusion in a traditional news story.

So for us, we look at our information flows through the lens of: who might want to pay to know this? And how do we present it in a way they’ll find valuable? That requires looking at our reporting from both a journalistic and commercial point of view. I think we’ve been successful because we’ve found a way to make sure those prerogatives are complementary.

All of this translates into a few different major revenue streams

* Our news website is behind a firm paywall. We have a broad range of subscribers, from NGOs and foreign companies to academics and diplomats.

* We sell advertising on the website, in our email alerts to subscribers, and in a print magazine that gets distributed at Iraq-focused conferences and around Iraq.

* Our research division is responsible for taking the “cutting room floor” reporting and packaging that for niche clients. Some of those products include daily reports on specific areas of thematic and/or geographical interest; data sets; and bespoke reports.

It’s also worth emphasizing that this business model only works if it’s standing on a foundation of outstanding reporting. In this sense, our priorities are quite traditional. We focus on differentiating ourselves from competitors primarily by getting better information than anyone else.

In financial terms, this means we’ve used virtually all of our revenue growth to reinvest in our reporting network inside the country. I’m pretty sure we have the largest full-time, in-country staff of any western news organization.

The result is that, unlike some of our competitors, we never find ourselves opining about such a complex environment from the outside. One of our taglines is “ground truth” reporting, and that really captures what we do. And it’s evident in the feedback we get.

One foreign diplomat in Iraq once complained to me that his cables didn’t seem to get any traction with his bosses – because they’re hearing a dozen different opinions from different sources – but when they read the same information in Iraq Oil Report they would always treat it with credibility and urgency. That’s the kind of relationship we want with our readers.”

 

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More about Ben: Ben Lando is founder, Publisher and Editor-at-Large of Iraq Oil Report, the best source for news, analysis and information from and about Iraq. He built a network of local and international reporters and researchers to cover stories about Iraq’s energy, politics and security.

Ben has briefed public and private investor groups, diplomats and American and other political leaders about Iraq. He has reported from a dozen countries on energy, political and security issues, and has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and Time Magazine.

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