Corrections or additions?
This article was prepared for the November 7, 2001 edition of U.S.
1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Selling Internet Content? Try the Amusement Park
Contentville is no more. Founded by Steven Brill, who
scored home runs with American Lawyer Magazine and Court TV, the site
took its name from the term coined in the Internet Age to refer to
what print types call "articles," "short stories,"
and "books." Part magazine, part bookstore, Contentville,
which pulled the plug on its website last month, had received $100
million in backing from investors, including media companies CBS and
One of the best-financed content websites, Contentville was not the
only one to crash recently. Write News (writenews.com) features
a Dead Zone listing media cut-backs and closings. Now on its long
list are a number of content sites in trouble, including ABC.com,
which laid off 85 percent of its workforce on October 23, New
a career site that shut down on October 22, and IFilm.com, which
10 jobs on October 16.
These are tough times for content, for sure. But a local Internet
company is finding a way to make content pay.
Magweb (short for Magazine Web) was founded in 1996 by Russ
its CEO, and three partners. A compendium of magazines on military
history, the company, with offices in Stockton, is self-funded, turned
a profit in 2000, and continues to grow.
Lockwood believes that content can be the basis for a profitable
company — if the business model is set up correctly. On Tuesday,
November 13, he speaks on "Website Content Subscription: A
Model that Works" at the monthly meeting of the Association of
Internet Professionals at the Sarnoff Corporation. Cost: $10. Call
Lockwood has spent his entire career in journalism. A graduate of
Syracuse University (Class of 1981), where he studied journalism and
history, he has written for the New York Times Information Service,
Creative Computing magazine, and Personal Computing magazine. He also
ran Compuserve forums, including AfterHours and Computer Gaming World,
and was editorial director of AT&T’s New Media Services web division.
Beyond hard work — 12 to 16 hours a day is not unusual —
has succeeded, he believes, because he uses a subscription model.
Most content sites, by contrast, tried to use a television model,
putting up content and expecting advertisers to pay for it. Other
sites sell content piece by the piece, charging, on average, $2.50
for each article download.
Lockwood rejected the advertising model out of hand, and decided that
charging for articles one at a time was not a great idea either. He
saw that some websites were selling articles without so much as a
summary or a word count, so consumers had little idea, beyond a title,
of what they were buying. After spending $25, a customer could find
there was little in the 10 articles he had purchased that he needed.
"For my model, I took amusement parks," says Lockwood.
price, and you ride all day."
Visitors to Lockwood’s site (www.magweb.com) can sample a few articles
at no charge, but to access the full contents of the 96 magazines
it lists, they must sign up for a subscription. Priced at $19.95 a
month or $59.95 for the entire year, subscriptions allow military
history buffs to read as many articles as they wish.
Lockwood has 3,000 to 3,500 subscribers, 80.4 percent of whom opt
for the yearly subscription. The magazines they browse include
Revolutionary War Journal, English Civil War Times, Cry Havoc (all
historical periods), Dragonman (history of the Ottoman Empire),
(Spanish Civil War history), and The Penny Whistle (military history,
games, miniatures and reviews).
His company is called Magweb because Lockwood’s original plans
websites for magazines in a number of niches. He started with military
history because, he says, "If you’re going to be spending 12 hours
a day on something, it helps if you love it." Lockwood’s interest
in military history began at the age of 6, when his father taught
him chess using kings, queens, knights, and castles. He started
up on Medieval knights, and then graduated to World War II,
the local library had more material on it."
Lockwood still thinks of adding other niches. He is generally dubious
about the value of venture capital, which induced many Internet
to put rapid expansion above all else, but he does say that the money
would be helpful in adding more websites and products. For now, he
is not focusing on other subject areas, but rather is working hard
to bring the total number of publications on his website up to 100.
That number, he says, would give MagWeb an added aura of credibility.
Looking at the home page of his site, largely a table of contents
listing the magazines within, MagWeb looks like a pretty simple
one anyone could do with a few hours a week of spare time. Not so.
Here are some of the elements that go into this successful website.
result of Lockwood’s persuasive powers. He needs to convince many
potential clients that his site won’t kill them. After all, they are
putting all of their articles up on MagWeb. Some fear that their
will cancel, and will do all their reading on Lockwood’s site. This
doesn’t happen, he tells them, and in fact, some of the magazines
on his site report more subscribers as a result of their exposure
there. This is especially true, he says, of really small circulation
specialty newsletters that may have only a few dozen subscribers.
This phenomenon points to differences in print and Internet. While
the Internet is great for scanning lots of information quickly, it
can’t match paper held by a reader ensconced in his favorite chair
before the fireplace on a cold night.
When this line of thinking is not 100 percent effective, Lockwood
offers a licensing agreement whereby he delays putting a publication’s
current issue up on the site for a period of time. Each licensing
agreement is different, but all pay contributing publications based
on the number of times subscribers read their articles.
a day on his enterprise. Weekends too? Well, he says, that depends
on how you define work. Many Saturdays and Sundays find him at
of war history buffs, where he enjoys the conversation, and spreads
the word about his website. "The first six, seven months of the
year, I was flying all over the place," he says. He also uses
a public relations professional, who has secured him prime gigs,
an appearance on the History Channel.
Lockwood. Each issue of all 96 magazines on his site needs to be taken
apart and scanned in. With a modern optical character reader (OCR)
this is not too difficult for glossy magazines printed on high quality
paper, but many of the niche history publications on MagWeb are much
more cheaply produced. These require a good deal of clean up by a
human with a careful eye for detail. Even harder to scan are back
issues, some of them decades old, and hand typed. "With a big
glossy, you find that one in 100 characters are off," says
"With the 1970s, you’re lucky to get 10 percent accuracy."
programming and upgrades, and recently switched to a Sun Enterprise
tide. "Let me tell you," he says, "five years ago people
said `Charging for something? You’re crazy!’" But, even then,
with hundreds of websites giving away content of all kinds, he
that "somewhere, somehow, down the line, you have to make it
You will never improve results if you can’t measure
every part of your organization. That is the message of William
Schiemann, CEO of a Somerville-based consulting and research
firm, the Metrus Group, and past president of the New Jersey Human
Resources Planning Group. Schiemann, co-author (with Metrus colleague
John H. Lingle) of "Bullseye! Hitting Your Strategic Targets
High-Impact Measurement" (The Free Press, $30), finds many
afraid to measure employee and customer satisfaction. The questions
might put ideas in their heads, is the thinking. Schiemann argues
that measuring these stakeholders’ attitudes is critical.
Schiemann speaks on "Reinventing Human Resources: Using the
Scorecard" on Monday, November 12, at 5:30 p.m. at a meeting of
the Human Resources Management Association at the Princeton Hyatt.
Cost: $35. Call 908-231-1900.
If his audience already appreciates the value of measuring performance
and believes that their companies are already employing measurement
processes, Schiemann will not be surprised. In fact, in the opening
chapter of his book, he challenges readers to take a 30-second test
about their own organization:
"Make a note of the few dozen or so things that really matter
to the long-term success of your business. Be thorough. Sure, revenue
generation is critical, but what else matters? Is it the satisfaction
of your customers? Is it the commitment and loyalty of your employees?
Is it improving the work force competencies? Regulatory issues? Labor
issues? recruiting new talent? Whatever it is, write down the top
12 items that really matter tot he long-term success of your
Then, Schiemann writes, "make a list of the measures you talked
about in your last quarterly business review meeting. Did you talk
about the revenue numbers? What other numbers did you talk about?
Measures of customer loyalty? Competencies? Regulatory issues?"
"Are you reviewing on a regular basis measures of the dozen things
that really matter to your organization’s long-term success? Or is
your organization yet one more example of the measurement paradox
in which there is a chasm between the rhetoric espousing the
of measurement and a reality that denies it?"
One of the most glaring examples of the measurement paradox comes
in the area of customer and employee satisfaction, according to the
Schiemann-Lingle book. Lots of executives, the authors assert,
that "surveying customers or employees puts ideas in their heads
and creates dissatisfaction." But research shows that
leaders, as compared to industry laggards, do more surveying of their
customers and employees?
"In fact, evidence suggests that `not asking’ is a much more
strategy than `asking.’ Research reported by the Direct Selling
Foundation indicates that the average business never hears from 96
percent of its dissatisfied customers. For every complaint received,
the average business has another 26 customers with problems from whom
it has not heard. The value of eliciting complaints is clear. Simply
allowing a customer to voice a complaint significantly increases the
likelihood of repeat business. If the complaint can be dealt with
quickly, 8 out of 10 customers will come back or refer others to your
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