Member Profile: Riddle Helps MCOL Innovate in Healthcare Publishing

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Clive Riddle is president of MCOL, a leading publisher of healthcare business information, founded in 1995. He has overseen the company's growth from its original online membership service to now have an e-reach of more than 250,000.

Before MCOL, Riddle spent 12 years as CEO of a regional, hospital-owned, managed care organization in California. There he was responsible for developing and overseeing HMO, PPO, insurance, clinic and pharmacy operations, where they developed into a $100 million-a-year business. 

SIPA: MCOL has been around since 1995. That's a good run.
CLIVE RIDDLE: Yes, and since 1995, most of the team is still with me. In 2008 we got a new CIO, and he's still with us. I'm proud that we have always been digital-first. I didn't come from the publishing industry but being a healthplace CEO, I knew this niche well. 

What's your revenue model?
The largest portion of our revenue comes from advertising and sponsors. We also get some paid membership and subscription dollars, webinar fees, and sell some directories. We try to be diversified. 

That's a big goal for most publishers these days.
We have two models of webinars, one that's free with sponsors underwriting it. And one where we charge a registration fee. We also put out sponsored whitepapers and e-briefs. Then there's also straight advertising where we send out announcements to our audience. Many of our clients who are sponsors like to do a package. 

Where do you get new audience from?
Many people come to us from LinkedIn; well, they come to our free content, at least. In addition to the free content, we have specific subscription newsletters that are paid. We have a little over 50,000 members, most free, and over 100,000 unique email addresses, in addition to that overall reach. 

Are there different strategies you've used?
Yes, we've tried to do innovative things, some with B2B social media. We have a site called Health Sprocket [with a pop-up ad when you click on it] that's a home for lists involved with healthcare—25 top-rated Medicare plans, 10 cities that get healthcare right. We have another site where we post videos with healthcare business interests. B2B can get lost on YouTube among all the consumer videos. Here, people can comment on them, rank them, and it becomes content. 

What about sales?
We're pretty small, but we do have an awesome person for business development and sales. In a perfect world, we'd have more. We do a lot of order taking. 

Your homepage has a lot of interesting links.
We shoot out a lot of short bits of information. That's some of our most engaged and opened content—factoids, snapshots, anything that's quickly digestible. 

Do you repurpose your webinars?
Yes. When a sponsor does a webinar, we'll repurpose that information in multiple ways. There's live, then we'll post the video, then take out excerpts, breaking it down into 7-minute chunks. We can do repurposing in multiple platforms. There are also nice tools out now to get a transcript off voice recognition. 

And do you look at those analytics?
We do analytics on who attends. What topics did they go to? How long did they sit in? Do they leave early? Some might bail when it's not of interest. 

Do you find that you have many types of users?
Yes and we pay attention to every type. Some people won't attend any complimentary webinars thinking that it will only be a sales pitch. And some who are more budget-conscious might do the opposite. Some overlap, but not all that much. People want information in all different formats and lengths. 

What kind of speakers do you get?
We want solution providers. For sponsored webinars they often might be from large health information technology companies. They would typically start with an overview and then someone from the company will speak for 15 minutes. Then one of their clients might speak for 45 minutes. For the paid webinars, we'll get into some fairly technical topics like predictive analytics. We might charge $195 on the lower end for a one-hour event. With more bells and whistles, $295. We also sell site licenses. 

You said that having diversified offerings might be a mixed blessing?
Yes. With up-and-down cycles, it does give us some protection, but on the flip side, there's more breadth of knowledge that we need and more demands on us to have skillsets to do everything. 

I take it then that you do podcasts as well?
Yes, not any recurring series but it's a part of our campaigns. We won't just put them on SoundCloud though. We'll put them up on YouTube and our own video/podcast site. We do a number of them with a contract person who does the moderating and technical work. 

You're located in Modesto, Calif.
People ask, "Why are you there?" So I didn't have to move, really. We actually have more clients on the east coast, and many of our employees work remotely. We'll do weekly conference calls to stay in touch. 

Finally, I see that you've also written three novels, two of them with zombies. The latest is The Z Tailgate
Yes, I've always been interested in writing. (We wear many hats here.) I went to Burning Man one year and thought, what if zombies came into an atmosphere like that, and there you have it.


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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…