Member Profile: Why Greentech Sees Paid Research—Supported By Media, Events—As the Winning B2B Formula

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As its name suggests, Boston-based Greentech Media serves the green energy space. What may not be as readily apparent is that paid research and subscription services—not media—are its primary drivers, accounting for almost two-thirds of Greentech’s overall revenue and its fastest growing revenue stream. Here, Greentech CEO Scott Clavenna explains how prioritizing research—complemented by digital media and events—gives Greentech a recurring revenue stream that shields it from some of the fickleness of an advertising-only model and allows for major upsell opportunities with clients.

Scott Clavenna, CEO, Greentech Media
Scott Clavenna, CEO, Greentech Media

ABM/CISD: When was Greentech founded and how has its mission changed?

Scott Clavenna: Greentech was founded in 2007. The mission hasn’t really changed but it’s definitely evolved.

There was a lot going on with green technology in 2007 and we didn’t see much in the way of b2b networks that got buyers and sellers and users together to talk to each other and exchange good information.

The way we designed Greentech reflected the company that we came from, which was Light Reading. I was part of the research division (called Heavy Reading). Through our acquisition by CMP, we learned that if you can successfully build a market research company within a b2b media company, that creates a powerful, differentiated business. The market research part is its own business line and tends to have annual contracts which gave us a recurring revenue stream. For the rest of the company, it makes the edit side more rounded in data and analysis—journalists weren’t having to find data from third parties, they were able to get what we had firsthand. Same thing with conferences—we were differentiated from other b2b conferences in that our analysts put the agendas together, moderated panels and kept speakers grounded in data.

Having a really successful market research business insulates you from some of the troubles with digital media like fluctuating ad rates and fickle advertisers. Light Reading added market research three years after we started—with Greentech, we launched with research, media and events ready to go. Research is something we keep investing in because it offers strong alignment with customers and great revenue that is more recession-resilient than marketing services or conferences. We’ve seen companies in this space that were filing for Chapter 11 and going out of business finding their last dollars to put toward our research.

ABM/CISD: Can you explain the business model behind the research?

 Clavenna: There are three parts to our research business. There are ad hoc reports that we sell individually for about $3,000. You don’t have to be a subscriber to get the report and it’s a way to get our content out there. Having a media company and a news site really helps with that—we have our own marketing engine. With an audience of 370,000 readers, we are able to take advantage of that audience who trusts us, and say here’s the data and analysis.

Another area is annual subscriptions, which is the most important part of our research business. We want as much of our business to be on an annual contract basis as possible. That’s another thing that’s great compared to media, where it’s very hard to sell annual against sponsorships or webinars.

A variety of other things count as subscription and advisory services. Over the last eight years we’ve launched a variety of independent tracking and data services that can be subscribed to individually, such as the Latin American PV Playbook or the UV Utility Project Tracker, which offers information and analysis on contracted utility AV Projects in the U.S.

When we innovate, we almost always think about what can be subscription-based.

ABM/CISD: What are you charging?

Clavenna: The range of subscriptions goes from around $15,000 to $40,000. Individual customers can go into six figures because they take multiple subscriptions. Twenty-five thousand is the sweet spot for most research services, but some customers go well above that.

Research is the fastest growing part of our business—it’s up 60% in the first half of 2015. It’s flying. We’ve hit some real sweet spots in the market. Utility transformation is becoming a real issue and there is a need for information, data and clarity.

ABM/CISD: What are you most excited about going forward?

Clavenna: We will be doing our first mini tradeshow next year. We do five traditional b2b conferences and get 300 to 500 attendees for each. What we’ve never done is have an exhibit hall and we’ll be adding a large exhibit hall to our GridEdge conference. That’s been a lot of fun, I think there’s an opening there.

We will also be taking the covers off a new approach with our online business later in this summer, but it’s a new kind of way we will be making money online and interacting with readers that’s a lot of fun. It’s a way to not be exclusively advertising-driven online, not by putting up a pay wall but adding new elements for a modest fee. It’s important for publishers to diversify their revenue, look to their readers and create certain ways your readers can get a lot of value.

Matt Matt Kinsman is vice president of content + programming at Connectiv, the only association focused on the integrated b-to-b model—including publications, events, digital media, marketing services and business information. Prior to joining Connectiv's predecessor American Business Media in 2011, Kinsman was executive editor of Folio:, the leading information provider for the magazine industry.