This is probably more of a blog post than anything but it's important as I launch this new site.
A (short) bit of history
When I ditched my job to set up the sportEX medicine journal, I was 28. I'd spent 6 years in various educational establishments cutting my teeth learning to be a physio at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge (UK) and then a sport and exercise scientist at Birmingham University. Following that I spent a year dipping in and out of jobs I didn't really fit with until I found the job that would bring everything together. I became a junior journalist on two weekly newspapers aimed at GPs and hospital doctors respectively, the job I left to launch sportEX. It's totally safe to say that at that point I didn't have a clue what I was doing! Fortunately the subscribers who signed up to sportEX in those early days had faith in the concept of the journal and that combined with long, long, long days and nights and no holidays for several years, enabled me to get it off the ground.
At the time I left Reed Business Publishing, I was reading a book called Maverick, which is an inspiration in so many ways (as anyone who has read it will testify to).
I couldn't sum it up better than one of the reviewers on Amazon who described it like this:
"The way that Ricardo Semler runs his company is impossible; except that it works, and works splendidly for everyone. I relish this book. It revived my faith in human beings and my hope for business everywhere."
This isn't therapy, so I'll keep it short!
As a child dishonesty wasn't tolerated and transparency, decency, honour and integrity was the moral framework I grew up in, so there was really only one way in which I would ever be happy running my own business. And having learnt over the last 16 years about what it takes to run a business, I've matured enough to see how I can now bring my vision to fruition.
So back to this website
Even before I started this business, I wanted to be a 'maverick', not because I wanted to be disruptive particularly, I just wanted to build a business that was a good honourable business (I call it my 'virtuous circle' for want of a better description!). As the Amazon reviewer said: "it works, and works splendidly for everyone", and that's my goal summed up!
I want it to work for you, the reader so that it helps you do your job to the best of your ability; you, the author who spends so much time slaving over creating the content; you, the person who promotes the content to your audience because you believe in it; and yes to me who builds the platform to deliver the technology and the market to the content. I want to host the best, most practical content, that enables everyone consuming it to do their jobs, better, faster and more effectively; I want the authors of the content to be rewarded proportionately for creating the kind of content that helps you achieve this and the commissioning editors for identifying the people who can deliver this content; and finally the people who promote it so that people buy it, because without that, none of us can do any of the above.
I want it to work, and I want it to work splendidly for everyone.
So how does this work in practice (and please feel free to contribute more ideas - it's a work in progress)?
- Content creators earn 20% of all sales of their content across the board (and this applies to all forms of content, even if it's a single piece of media used in other larger pieces of content)
- Commissioning editors earn 5% of sales from the content they commission
- Affiliates and people promoting the content earn 15-25% of any sales they generate
The goal is that everyone is invested in creating the best content and then promoting it's existence.
The next steps
The next steps are to increase the engagement aspect of the site.
Publishers traditionally pay either a fixed fee (ie. for authors to write a a book, sometimes with a royalty thrown in on sales and sometimes not) or they pay by the word count (ie. generally for authors to write an article). Once the publisher has paid that fee, they generally own that piece of work. Research journals almost exclusively pay nothing, however the 'commercial trade off' (because there always is one) is that the researchers employed by academic institutions have to publish a certain amount of research published in peer-reviewed journals to fulfill their employment obligations.
For the first 10 years of sportEX I followed the model I'd been paid on when I'd freelanced, which was the traditional "pence for words" model. It's a great model for publishers, particularly ones with lots of subscribers/readers because the more readers/subscribers you have for that content, the more you spread the cost, and the cheaper per person that content becomes. Then I decided this model wasn't encouraging content that I really wanted, so for the last 6 years I modified things so that I paid 50% of fees based on word count (exc. refs) and then factored in things that I actively wanted to encourage (ie. well written articles that didn't need loads of sub editing, packed full of practical features like videos, tables, flow charts and quizzes).
The new site takes things on further. And while I as a publisher will earn signficantly less and not benefit from the 'economies of scale' of the traditional model, I think the investment and co-operative nature of the royalty model should enoucrage better content which stays up to date and can evolve and cross fertilise utilising new resources that are added even after it's been published.
The longer-standing a customer you are, the more you benefit
To me it's essential to respect customers who have been so fundamental to our growth. For this reason there are still over 230 customers paying £26 a year for content that now costs nearly 3 times that amount! I reconcile those standing order payments with the renewing subscription orders and I think about how important those subscriptons were to me at the time that customer set that payment up. It was the life blood that literally kept the business running. Every single one of those people helped me to build my dream and allowed it to flourish. Which is why despite any price changes, if your sub stays active, I will always honour the price you signed up for. I will not be one of those businesses who makes it more appealing for new customers to join up, without offering my existing customers the same deal, it's just wrong. So if you ever catch me doing it, believe me it will be unintentionally, but please call me on it and bring it to my attention!
The last word...for now!
Most of all I hope you enjoy the content on this site and that you get invovled with sharing and discussing it! It will really fly when we add the 'social' features to it in the coming months and as always I want to run before I can walk, but I'm enjoying this walk for now :)