SIPA Member Profile: Gale Ushers Company Into New Places

Tom Gale, President, Gale Media, Boulder, Colo. and Publisher, Modern Distribution Management

What takes up most of your time these days?
I’ve spent most of the past year and a half integrating the acquisition of a market research company that focuses on industrial markets and wholesale distribution channels—the audience of our newsletter and website. This is our next step in transitioning from a 45-year-old B2B newsletter into a publisher of industry research, software and market analytic tools, where we are the primary source for qualitative and quantitative research for wholesale distribution executives. Beyond that, I spend my time moderating webcast events and building long-term sponsorship and advertising relationships. I’ve handed off most content roles to a great editorial team, but continue to speak at industry events to advance our cause. Occasionally I try to run a company, but I’ve had better luck hiring the right people who make that a small part of my job description.

How many employees do you have?
Six full-time equivalents—we just grew by one in January for the market research company—plus a few more contract-based contributors. Every person in this company understands the power of content marketing and integrated delivery platforms. That sounds really publishing geeky, doesn’t it?

What’s changed most for MDM over the last few years?
Six years ago we were 95% subscription-based, now it’s a third of our revenue. We’re a subscription-advertising hybrid poster child, as online advertising and sponsored free webcasts have each grown to between 20-25% of revenues. These can be volatile and nerve-wracking from a planning standpoint, but were critical as subs dipped in the recession. Now subs are coming back strong, our site traffic keeps building, and I’m bullish on another strong growth year in 2012 from all the revenue streams.
And our team keeps testing new product concepts, including sponsored content. We are in our second year of a weekly “Management Tip of the Week,” with an annual sponsor, an idea we got from seeing the success Harvard Business Review had with a similar format and model. It’s been high value to the sponsor, profitable for us, and requires a relatively small editorial resource repurposing content from our archives. It has also been a good marketing tool for our other products.

What makes your online advertising work so well?
First is our audience, composed of C-level executives with whom we have developed very strong relationships based on the quality of our content. We always sell on quality of audience, not quantity. We are very fortunate. We use a contract associate publisher based in Connecticut, a former trade magazine publisher. He understands online platforms and does a great job educating how to leverage them, and the beauty of online metrics where you can test and adjust to achieve your goals. We actually bring a lot of SIPA-learned best practices to help our marketing partners create offers, landing pages and subject lines to get the best results possible. It works and they appreciate the value of our consulting!

And you’ve gone away from the one-price-fits-all system?
Yes. Up until a few years ago, we only sold ads by the month or quarter. Now we offer both time-based and impression-based options. That flexibility meets a wider range of needs, and it solved problems we had with periodically getting booked out with the available ad slots we have across web and email.

Anything else that’s new?
We’re developing a few product partnerships with SIPA members in complementary subject areas. Also, about a tenth of our revenue comes from repurposed content private-labeled into several of the primary industry associations we work with. It’s a revenue generator, but also one of the best marketing tools for our other products into this engaged audience. It’s my dream model of having people pay you to market to them—but with a win-win value proposition, of course!

What’s next for MDM?
We all feel our site looks cluttered and needs work. Agile, flexible, user-friendly, lean, integrated content platforms, including mobile, are next! We kicked off a more formal strategic planning process last fall, and it has been an important tool to focus our limited resources on the best growth opportunities ahead…We have a monthly meeting to evaluate where we are on the 2012 plan and adjust as needed. We have all the right pieces in place now to scale much more quickly. It goes back to what I have heard from SIPA members over the years—we all need to keep moving from “nice-to-know” to “need-to-know” content to differentiate from what’s available for free.


Tom also said: “Our online build-out and
diversification developed by going to most
conferences SIPA offers each year—ideas
from fellow publishers, roundtables.”

SIPA 2012
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