Will I be able to write two posts in a day, every single day? Is it the thing for which I was born? Last month Lighthouse Insights – our online publishing venture that covers digital marketing stories – turned five. We began with writing two posts, then four posts in a day, at times we even wrote eight posts in a day. For the first time, I knew what “Passion” meant.
As an employee, I never stayed with a firm for more than three years, so in that terms, it was a big achievement. Today, in full volume I can say I’m good at something; it’s not just a fairy tale, it runs our home.
In the last five years, I’ve learnt a lot about life, work and moreover how to fuel your dream and make money out of it. Many things have changed in these five years but one thing remains constant, and hopefully will stand tall in the future: strong focus on our goal.
And take my word – your goal will be tested in every possible way and money will play a big role. For instance, I was offered twice to run a Mumbai based agency, a training institute in my second year with good monetary benefits, all of which was tempting as we weren’t making much. But that meant LI would eventually face a slow death.
Strong focus on goal
When I started LI with my wife, also my co-founder in 2011, I had a simple goal in my mind – I want to cover the Indian social media marketing space driven with insights. We didn’t want to be just another website that copies company press releases and makes a few bucks from Google Ads.
On the Internet, it just takes a click to open a site and another to close it. A reader’s time is valuable so we wanted to add value to his time. That has never changed and even today when we discuss a story our primary question is what a marketer will achieve by reading the story.
Don’t start an online site just because listicles are driving good traffic from social media and you can make some extra money. Start with something you connect with.
Vision of LI has sharpened
With the goal standing strong, in the last five years the vision of LI has sharpened. From a social media marketing site covering brand campaigns, today we are trying to bring value to marketer with every story. From reviewing campaigns, writing insightful articles and covering expert interviews, today we try to bring original digital marketing stories from various brackets such as brands, publishers and agencies. At the same time we cover interesting data and platform stories that would be useful to a marketer.
In today’s information overload times, we understand that a reader has too many things on his plate and we respect that. If he comes to LI for five minutes he should get returns from it, so our focus today is only on original stories. With our limited resources, this entire 2015 we have not only cut down on the quantity of stories, but focused on bringing more quality and depth to them.
This also motivates a marketer to visit our site since we have something new to give rather than repeating the same press release, which anyways is being covered at various other competing sites.
But this clarity of vision has come in the fifth year after loads of experiments, what we want to contribute and at the same time keeping in mind what our readers want. Right now we have caught the right nerve and from here it will get more polished. What it means is that we will try to cover more interesting stories, in a much better manner with market inputs.
Different content needs of the market
Content has always played, and going further too, will play the primary role. Over the time I have also understood that while I might be excited about an in-depth interview I have done with a marketer, the audience is more interested in viewing a listicle article on creative visuals/videos shared by brands. LI isn’t a million plus pageviews site but over the time we have learnt to bring a balance between different content needs of the market.
Covering every social network news won’t give any value as it is already broken in the US a day before, so we rolled it out as a curated article at the end of the week under – “10 Social Network updates from the week.” Similarly we list all the global campaigns that we come across every week in a curated article every Saturday. What started as an experiment, receives decent traction today.
Likewise if there is a big social network update affecting a marketer’s decision making then covering it along with expert opinion is a lucrative piece. Chasing for answers is still a tedious job but then these stories have a larger audience.
Going further there would be many more experiments but the secret is to keep trying and observe what is working and cast off what’s not. For instance in 2014 LI used to cover startups and Asia social network news but this year we chose not to; there are better sites that cover startups for instance YourStory, NextBigWhat, Inc42, among others.
Importance of tech and mobile behaviour
Not just content, tech also plays a big role for an online publishing platform. Besides it also helps if one of your co-founder has tech knowledge, in our case we learnt everything on the job. This helped us grow but in this process we made a lot of mistakes and it took time.
Even though we are not coders, we always wanted the user to have a good time on our site rather than trying to find content hidden in ads, videos and ‘Like’ pop ups. The present design showcases our belief to keep the reader at the top.
To begin with we went responsive in 2014, post that our focus was on seeing how international publishers are changing their design and making their tech stronger. Over the time we realized that going mobile isn’t enough but the thinking has to be mobile first. The aim should also be to figure out how effective is the site load time when the user is on a poor connection.
Keeping all these things in mind, we have the new design in place that not only loads faster but the ads are also non-intrusive. Read also: A Revamped LI – It’s Easier, Faster & Smoother
Importance of Email Marketing
If you are wondering that the job is done then wait a minute, today the biggest challenge with content creation is content discovery. Every big publisher today understands this challenge and is trying to find a solution for it.
Just a year or two ago, social networks had become the biggest distribution channel and they still are for a lot of publishers. However, the scenario today is changing rapidly as social networks are today’s publishers. As of now it looks like a big blow to small and medium publishers, as it makes no business sense for social networks to provide referral traffic to websites across world.
For LI, Search has always been a dominant factor than Social, even though we haven’t spent a rupee on ‘search engine optimization’. Google analytics plays a good role here in indicating what’s working and what’s not. In this madness of social networks the biggest mistake I did was underestimating the importance of Email Marketing.
Email still works and it assures that a set of desired audience makes a point to see it on a daily basis. Again today inboxes are already overloaded with all kinds of email, so respecting that is important. We have options of daily and weekly newsletter too. Besides we have a very evident ‘Unsubscribe’ button.
The results are not mind blowing but we have complete control on what we send to our subscribers and dream of growing that as a dedicated community for LI.
Keen focus on revenues
Making revenues has been an important focus. One just can’t live on dreams alone, one needs money to fuel their dreams. In the last five years, I have got a number of advices to start training, consultancy or events as content will not fetch you enough money. I am happy that I stood by what we had believed from day one – “Original content can survive and make money.”
Going ahead we plan to have some more interesting revenue streams in 2016 but they will be around content and support the vision of LI. Additionally, revenue streams will not take over reader and their reading preferences.
There should be some more interesting learning’s that might have slipped from my mind but all this wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t kept our costs low. This also ties with our goal of staying lean and effective.
It’s the oldest lesson in the business: Focus, said Rafat Ali, CEO of travel industry site Skift and founder of The Verticals Collective, a loose group of publishers focused on specific coverage areas to DigiDay. You have to figure out what you’re good at and go deep on it.
We have found what we are good at, now we need to keep digging deep.
Image source: A6photo