Culture, 'High-Value' Content and Awards Fuel Industry Dive's Rise

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After only six years, Industry Dive just went over the 1,000,000 subscriber mark for its 10-plus verticals. They rely on an advertising-based revenue model—they told The Washington Post last year that they charge $60 for every 1,000 impressions.

"Our customers are marketers looking for different channels to get their message out. We can charge a premium for that," co-founder and chief revenue officer Ryan Willumson told the Post.

They have outstanding leadership and a growing staff that now numbers more than 100, and brought in $16 million in revenue in 2017. Here are some reasons for that success, from a panel I attended at BIMS that included CEO Sean Griffey, and an article last week by Robin Selvy Re on the Industry Dive site:

Find underserved niches and come up with a workable model. Their first five publications were Construction Dive, Education Dive, Marketing Dive, Utility Dive and Waste Dive. "The products we sell are the same," Griffey said. "It's the Southwest model—buy one type of plane and then everyone knows how to work on it."

Work to build your revenue model. "We're creating high-value content for people," Griffey said, "finding a way to distill it so they can use it quickly and then giving it in formats that are beneficial for lead generation for advertisers."

Establish a solid culture. "For the first couple months, there were just three of us working in an empty convenience store [keeping with the finest SIPA getting-started traditions], so when we hired someone, you could know pretty quickly if there was buy-in or not. It was about finding how we were going to be different." He decided that they would commit to more designers and UX people—"it was a way for a company our size to punch above our weight." Design that looked good enough for others was not good enough for Industry Dive. "Everyone talks about strategy" said Tom Kemp, chairman and CEO of Northstar Travel Media, who moderated that panel at BIMS. "But culture eats strategy every day."

Say no sometimes. Asked about what he has said no to, Griffey said that there were some revenue opportunities such as licensing and events that he decided would "take us away from our core, our real business. So we're going to walk away. Events are huge, but I'm not good at them. They take so much time and energy from everyone. I don't want to do that. We're growing at a good clip, so I don't want to be distracted. Let's keep going in one direction."

Find your brand ambassadors. They launched the Dive Insider program to "create a community of our most passionate, devoted readers who not only enjoy our publications, but also the industry they operate in." They now have more than 60 insiders who have, as a group, referred thousands of readers.

Create an awards program. Industry Dive formally recognized each industry's top disruptors and innovators with the Dive Awards in 2016. "From Company of the Year to Obsession of the Year, we solicited suggestions for title nominees from among our readers and industry insiders. Now an annual event, the Dive Awards showcase the executives, companies and trends transforming the industry and shaping the future."

Enter awards programs.Winning awards gives your company more heft in the market and injects staff with pride and a desire to do even better. The Industry Dive design team was recently awarded five 2017 American Graphic Design Awards by Graphic Design USA. Ryan McKnight, one of SIIA's 5 2017 Emerging Leader award winners, is the creative director.

Use your data. Ask yourself what data you have that you can sell or can help you sell. Industry Dive uses data as a "capability" to help them get to know their audience better. As Kemp from Northstar Travel said, "The more we know about our audience the more we can do."

Keep up on technology and its perceptions. Within the last year, Industry Dive has unveiled a new app and logo to go along with their 30-plus daily and weekly publications.

Use social media to its fullest advantage. "Linkedin groups have been powerful for us," Griffey said, though they've been moving away from them now.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…