From magazine to book to subscription website: Is this a viable business model?

Magazine publishers, book publishers and membership website publishers are re-inventing the revenue models for cross-selling information.

A recent article in Community, the quarterly newsletter of Barnes & Noble Booksellers, explains how a simple “get-to-know-you” meeting between the editors of Good Housekeeping and the magazine’s new book publishing partner, Sterling, led to a great book idea.

Jacqueline Deval, a publisher at Sterling, reports that Good Housekeeping’s editor-in-chief asked the magazine’s consumer product evaluation laboratory “What is the fastest growing kitchen appliance?” Research showed that blenders were growing faster than any other appliance.

There is evidence that successful books can help launch successful membership websites.

That sparked the idea for Blend It! 150 Sensational Recipes to Make in Your Blender, which sells for $14.95 in hardcover with a concealed spiral ring.

The book includes recipes for soups, dips, smoothies, cocktails and a variety of other foods that can be prepared in a blender.

Three printings later, Blend It! is a confirmed success and that single title has evolved into a series of new titles, including the soon-to-be-published Cookies! and Bake It!.


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The online model

It takes a lot of money to print a physical book, ship it to hundreds of Barnes & Noble stores, and pay employees to unpack it, shelve it, sell it, gift wrap it, etc.

So why not sell the blender book online?

In fact, if blenders are so popular, just how big is the market for blender recipes? A visit to the Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool shows 32,635 searches for blender and 34,653 searches for blender magazine in April 2004. It also shows 23,809 searches for smoothie recipe.

This confirms that blender owners also search for information online, not just in bookstores.

Now if you had a website comprised of numerous blender recipes, you could do a Google AdWords campaign, as well as optimize the site for the search engines with keyword search terms.

The question is, if you drove people to your website, you could sell your own blender recipe book? Could you sell a downloadable e-book?


Questions about the market

  • Could you sell admission to a membership website, where all the recipes could be searched, browsed and printed?


  • Could you create a membership website where admission is free in return for providing and confirming your email address, thus creating a valuable co-registration list.


  • Could you create a members-only recipe exchange club, where members provided much of the content by sharing their blender recipes?


  • Could you create a blended smoothie-of-the-month club?


  • Could you create an online cookbook-of-the-month club?


  • Could you provide access to a free, registration-required, members-only, recipe-based website that was sustained entirely by product advertising—perhaps appliance makers as well as food manufacturers?


  • Could you create a viable pay-for-access website based on a diet or a cookbook?


The South Beach Diet model

There is evidence that successful books can help launch successful membership websites.

The South Beach Diet has been on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year now. At its companion subscription website, 350,000 South Beach members swap recipes, make friends, stay motivated, have fun and lose weight.

They also visit the message boards that offer support to thousands of dieters, and meet expert nutritionists who answer their questions, round-the-clock.

The South Beach Diet has spawned an entire online community—an affinity group of dieters, all seeking to lose weight using the same methods.


Waterfront Media

Waterfront Media currently publishes the online versions of Dr. Andrew Weil’s My Optimum Health Plan; #1 New York Times Best Seller, The South Beach Diet™, by Dr. Arthur Agatston; Money Magazine’s financial expert, Today Show contributor and author Jean Chatsky; 25-year health and fitness icon Denise Austin; and the best-selling Left Behind Series by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

The company opened its doors in January 2002 and currently boasts 300,000 paid subscribers. More than 4.4 million people receive newsletters from Waterfront’s leading authorities for its products encompassing diet, health, finance, exercise, spirituality and religion and relationships.

Combining self-help and online subscriptions, Waterfront Media unites a growth industry with a successful online revenue model.

According to a 2004 Marketdata report, the total self-improvement market (including revenues of commercial and medical weight loss programs) is estimated to be worth $8.56 billion as of 2003 and grow to a value of $11.9 billion by 2008.

In addition, the US consumer online content spending will reach $1.4 billion in 2003, growing 10.4 percent over 2002, according to eMarketer’s new Spotlight report, Online Paid Content: Trends & Opportunities.


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