I am 37 and I am excited like a kid is on his birthday. It isn’t my birthday but it is Lighthouse Insights that is having a party today. A dream that I saw and found support from my co-founder Vinaya, has seen five long years. It’s a miracle to see Lighthouse Insights surviving all these years. A blessing from the almighty, a few well-wishers and readers who appreciate what we are trying to do. It isn’t the best company in the industry nor do we rake in millions of views but we’re happy with the way things have shaped up.
We started with no prior experience in social media or digital marketing, and didn’t know anything about the online publishing business. In fact we had no clue how things work but at the end of the day all marketing efforts should be able to communicate to its target audience, if they aren’t getting it then even if you win at the Cannes, you haven’t succeeded. From being called as ‘outsiders’ and ‘you don’t get anything about digital’, we’ve come a long way – the same people appreciate our work now and have partnered with us for business!
Does that make us arrogant and feel like “we’ve arrived.” No! It just makes us stronger in our beliefs and motivates us to do what we believe in day and night every week, month and year. This is what we’ve been doing in the last five years, keep producing original content that will be noticed by readers.
We’re listing here a few of the beliefs that worked for us and has helped us reach 5. They may not be ‘the perfect survival guide’ but somehow we did make it through and in a healthy manner.
Never gave up on the objective
One thing that hasn’t changed in the last five years is our objective. We have always believed that “Original content will survive and make money.” Today both are being made possible thanks to the razor sharp focus on our objective and never deviating from it. It has evolved over the years though and has become crisper.
When we started our focus was covering the Indian social media space and today we try to cover digital marketing stories that will help a marketer in making better decisions.
However, you will be tested and be ready for it. Like all other startups we had very bad days, bad days and good days. Whatever the times are, never give up on your objective, it is your startup’s soul.
Readers first and will always be
Before being an entrepreneur, I am a reader too. I will be the first one to express my disgust when a reader has to hunt for content hidden beneath ads. We might not be techies but from the early days we had a clear consensus on design and reading experience always being top priority at LI.
Based on the same belief Lighthouse Insights has a new design which is cleaner, faster and smoother.
Apart from the reading experience, original content is what we believe in. Today we bring stories that matter to a marketer and help him/her in making better business decisions. The aim is to hunt for stories that remain covered in those company press releases.
For instance we recently covered the digital strategies adopted by online ecommerce sites during the festive period. We gathered thoughts from Indian publishers on ad blocking challenges. At the same time we have balanced with articles like – creative visuals by brands on Diwali and weekly curated article on global marketing campaigns.
Going further it is going to be the same – readers first. Don’t play with today’s smart readers since any revenue stream will only develop if they stick with you.
On the Internet it is that one click that opens your site and another click that helps the reader close your site and never come back again. Respect your reader.
Quality over quantity
A tough call again but today we don’t publish 8-10 articles, we only publish a maximum of 4 original articles in a day (Read also: Online Media Startup’s Dilemma – Balance Between Rehashed Content & Original Content ) When we started we used to write 5 articles daily, then at some point of time we were doing 8 articles daily and after that nothing was working, only our health deteriorated.
Now we don’t think about the number of articles, we ask ourselves what the reader is going to get after reading it on LI. In today’s information overload times, we need to respect our readers’ time. We need to have a strong reason for the reader to find his time on our site worthwhile.
We value our reader’s time and hence the belief is on quality rather than quantity.
It’s very tough for any entrepreneur but the day you accept your limitations you’ve matured. From the early stage we were very clear that we can’t chase the pageviews game while keeping our objective intact. However, I learnt to accept my limitations the hard way.
In early 2014, I wanted to evolve LI to a digital news media site and I failed. I realized in the first quarter that I can’t make it happen due to lack of resources; we weren’t enjoying too.
The lesson was clear, I’ll have to figure out what we are good at and let go irrational dreams. I realized that a team of two can’t break stories every hour all day and at the same time we don’t want to keep publishing the same press release that’s already been copied by another ten sites.
Today out of 10 things, I know I can do 3 things, so the focus is on how to make the 3 things better. Letting go ideas isn’t easy for an entrepreneur as you want to grow fast but you have to accept your limitations. (Read also: Three Hard Lessons That Made Me A Better Entrepreneur In 2014)
You grow as an entrepreneur when you start accepting and playing with your limitations.
Kept costs low
Thanks to my co-founder who implanted this belief in Lighthouse Insights. We still work from our lovely flat and I don’t see any reason why I should be buying an office space, though I was advised many times. Besides whatever other expenses we’ve made, major investments went into making Lighthouse Insights more robust.
However, this doesn’t mean that we’ve cut down on the fun part. No way, celebrations have never taken a backseat and in the fifth year the sun is still bright. God has been kind.
Focus on revenues
A dream that can’t survive is no good and for that it needs to make money. As LI has grown stronger with each passing year, the focus on revenues has increased. Today the mind is split into two parts while we think of covering interesting stories on LI, we’re also thinking about how we can turn it into a revenue stream.
Again here we’ve been rigid like with our objective. Time and again we’ve been advised to start digital marketing services, training and events. Over the years we kept ignoring all these ideas and focused on what we believe in – original content will make money. One good example is the LI yearly eBook that has now grown into online awards for digital work in its second year (By the way have you submitted your best work for LI Digital Campaign Awards 2015?)
In 2012 while going for an IPO, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had shared this, which I strongly believe in:
Back in India, the famous saying by the God of Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar – “I always believed that my bat should do all the talking.”
We’ve believed the same from the times we were bullied and told to shut shop.
Today I am on a high when someone recognizes me by Lighthouse Insights and that’s how I wish to be known – for my work.
All my life I have wondered what I’m good at and why do I even exist? May be Lighthouse Insights is that thing which I realized at the age of 32 after quite a few setbacks in life. (Read also: What Did I Learn by Getting Fired from Blackrock UK)
I don’t have many big plans, as a startup I can, at the most, plan for a week. Even that can go for a toss due to uncertainties. But I enjoy working at LI every day, even though I’m getting old I still get fresh ideas for content and revenue streams. I wish to do the same as long as it is feasible with my best efforts.
Thank you for this journey!