Tim Weller: 'Controlled circulation model is finished'

The controlled circulation model of business to business publishing is not sustainable in its current form, according to the chief executive of business information group Incisive.

Tim Weller was speaking yesterday afternoon at the World Magazines Congress in London at a session called “Innovating in a downturn” – in which he explained how Incisive is using free social networking technology to launch new money-making spin-offs for its brands.

In response to a question on whether or not B2B titles should charge for online content, Weller said: “In the years to come we will be charging in some way shape or form for all of our content. I don’t think the controlled circulation model in its current form is sustainable.”

Weller described how after founding Incisive with £250,000 in 1995, and one weekly news magazine – Investment Week – it now has a turnover of £250m with a portfolio of magazines, websites and events specializing largely in legal and financial information.

He said his compan’s strategy was to “onnect communities with as many routes to market as possible”

And explaining how its approach has evolved, he said: “Now if you try to deliver your print brand online, or if you try to deliver the print brand of six or seven years ago, you’re dead.

“Investment Week when we launched was a news weekly. We’ve evolved the print editorial, it’s now more discursive, thought-provoking – bringing together user generated content that we have found online

“The daily products become products that deliver news as it happens when it happens. Our objective is to own the working day of our audience in terms of information and news.”

Weller said that his company had felt the current recession coming as early as September 2007 in the mortgage side of its business – and had responded by “rightsizing” and stopping journalists from competing with each other by making them work in subject-specific “channels” rather than for particular brands.

He said: “My message is go back to your businesses and don’t be busy fools, spend the maximum amount of energy where the money is.”

Adding: “Rape, pillage and steal ideas from other people – innovation is great but plagiarism is quicker.”

LinkedIn

Weller described how Incisive has used professional social networking site LinkedIn to quickly create new online networks attached to Incisive titles.

Incisive’s monthly title Operation Risk and Compliance is a small circulation monthly with an annual subscription price of $1,400 a year. By creating a network on LinkedIn it has quickly created a community of 6,000 members, Weller said.

“It goes way beyond our subscription base, and we can promote on a daily basis products and services we can sell them.”

Weller said that in the hedge fund sector, Incisive had created a community of 1,000 people in two weeks on LinkedIn, which he said is “a free marketing tool for subscriptions, events and webinars”. He said that the editor of the title judges who can join the group and decides want content to put live on the site.

Workhound and Twitterjobsearch

Weller also explained how Incisive has recently launched a new website called Workhound which “scrapes every relevant jobs board out there and brings together the most relevant jobs like Google does”. He said: “I don’t know yet how I’m going to make money from it, but it’s not cost us much to do.”

Workhound claims to be the UK’s largest jobs search engine with 456,476 jobs.

Incisive has also recently launched a site called Twitterjobsearch which scrapes millions of postings on the social networking site to find ones which relate to jobs.

Weller advised magazine publishers to encourage their staff to take risks and said: “Don’t bollock them when they make a mistake, learn from the things that go wrong.”

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