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Online revenues: "Take your best estimate for what you expect to collect and divide by ten".

Are newsletter and specialized information publishers able to sell their publications, individual articles and special reports online to non-subscribers and make money?

NL/NL has spoken with a score of publishers during the past few weeks and has found the following:

Small to medium size publishers, especially those without "hard news" or "must-have" editorial content, have generated little revenue or royalty fees from articles, special reports or entire publications sold online.

Yet, a larger, research-information publisher, Mealey Publications, which publishes vital information needed by lawyers, has done well selling online.

One publisher cautioned that "there is a big difference between setting up a promotional web site" and getting "the bells and whistles" for your own site that will allow you to sell editorial content to non-subscribers online through a service provider.

In the past some newsletter publishers uploaded the editorial content of their publications to, owned by Impresso Inc. until that company merged with INFOCON a year ago.

The arrangement with usually called for the publications to produce a certain amount of royalty fees; otherwise the publisher would have to pay the difference between the royalty amount generated and the amount stipulated in the agreement.

But this year INFOCON (NL/NL 2/28/01) made the decision not to offer as a stand-alone service. Publishers must now commit to a full line of services offered by INFOCON in order to have their editorial content on

The experience of publisher Bill Haight of Magna Publications in Madison, Wisconsin, was typical of the response from the smaller publishers. Magna "has gotten virtually nothing from the royalty end we are not having a lot of activity at all online," he said.

Haight has offered its eight publications online through Haight attributed the lack of royalty payments in part to the fact that his newsletters, mostly in the higher education field, "are not particularly hard news."

Until last month Magna had all of its publications online with Largo, "although we were working through INFOCON as a reseller to the Largo system," Haight said. When Largo more than doubled its fees in January (NL/NL 2/15/01), Haight decided to switch to


However, instead of keeping all eight publications online with INFOCON, Haight decided to upload only four of them.

He looks at the decision to continue online "as an educational experience to try and buy us more time to try and figure what it is all about. ... That is why we dropped back to four publications." He admitted that he does not expect to make any money in the near future from selling his editorial content online.

Other publishers use the Gale Group, or other service providers, who will upload their editorial content without charge under a non-exclusive arrangement. This allows the provider to put the content into one or more databases for easy access. The publisher is paid a royalty when the material is accessed.

Almost without exception, the smaller publishers reported minimal royalties when selling their editorial content online either through the or other service providers, including Gale.

That was not the case with Mealey Publications. Publisher Tom Hagy said that he is "very happy" with Mealey's arrangement with INFOCON and that the company is earning substantial royalties.

Hagy attributed the success of selling the information online to the nature of the content and the fact that it is vital information that the lawyers need and are willing to pay for.

Mark A. Hartsell, INFOCON president and CEO, contended that the newsletter publishers themselves must market their web site in order to be successful in selling online.

"If you don't market your site it is the same as launching a newsletter and doing no marketing for the new launch. It is going to fail," he said. "There is really no difference in marketing a site. ... you have to have the proper technology to sell and deliver the information ... you have to have a good solid editorial base and product and you've got to market it."

INFOCON has the technology and know-how, "but in the end the publisher has to got to market his site," Hartsell said, in order to sell successfully online.

The cost of developing a web site with the bells and whistles needed to protect the editorial content, while at the same time having the technology to sell online, is certain to cost a newsletter publisher much more today than it would have just a year ago.

As one publisher warned, "Be realistic about your expectations for revenue from editorial content sold online. Take your best estimate for what you expect to collect and divide by ten."
COPYRIGHT 2001 The Newsletter on Newsletters LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Marshall, Jim
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Mar 15, 2001
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