With so much negative coverage of publishing, we at Bibblio are shining a spotlight on the many vertical publishers that are thriving. Welcome to the "Vertical Heroes" series of interviews.
In a departure from our usual single site interviews, this edition sees Bibblio's Mads Holmen speak to a vertical publisher with multiple titles - Texere Publishing. Based in both the UK and US, Texere is emerging as a market leader in the scientific, technical and medical markets. Covering research, business and societal impacts across their seven titles, Texere celebrates scientific successes whilst revealing the failures in equal candour, across fields that truly shape our world. Mads caught up with Texere's SVP North America, Fedra Pavlou, to discuss the importance of team culture, standing out, and drawing clear lines between editorial content and advertising.
Mads: Who are your target audiences?
Fedra: We have seven publication brands, which target different niches within science and medicine. Broadly speaking, we target doctors, scientists and people who operate within the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.
M: Which different types of content are you offering them?
F: Monthly print publications distributed throughout North America and Europe, weekly e-newsletters, websites, daily social media feeds across all major social media channels, webinars, interactive e-books, videos and animations.
M: How large are your publications in terms of audience and staff?
F: Each brand varies in audience size. Our most niche brand is The Ophthalmologist, which is distributed to just over 35,000 ophthalmologists in North America and Europe. The Pathologist readership base is doctors and lab professionals who work in diagnostics; this brand is now an official partner publication of the world’s largest professional society in the field (the American Society of Clinical Pathology) and its audience is just over 171,000. We have over 50 employees based in the US and UK.
M: You’ve managed to grow impressively, what has been the secret sauce?
F: One word: content. Okay, so that’s oversimplifying. Our people are absolutely critical to our growth and success, and they are the embodiment of Texere culture, which is so important to us. But Texere is seven years old and we have been experiencing double-digit growth year on year in an industry where, apparently, “print is dead” and publishers across all sectors are struggling.
To launch a publishing business and to be successful, we knew we had to be different and how we wanted to approach our content was where our story started. Our senior management team has decades of experience in medical and scientific publishing; we knew our markets, customers and audiences, and we knew that we had some stiff competition. How did we do it? By creating content that looked and read differently to anything else out there, that made our readers want to read because we brought something new to the table.
Our revenue model is based on advertising (in all of its various forms), but before we were able to generate any meaningful advertising dollars, we needed to gain the trust and respect of our audience and the opinion leaders, some of whom, one day would be standing on a podium in front of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people and talking about something they read in one of our publications.
This has happened many, many times now, unprompted. We are very honest in our approach to content and we don’t shy away from the delicate, controversial stories. Our writers and editors are scientists, but they are journalists and storytellers, too, who seek out unique angles and perspectives. Our designers came from tech and consumer backgrounds, and they bring great, cutting edge design to our brands, breathing life and excitement into our pages.
Importantly, we have a solid, impenetrable line between editorial content and advertising, which is critical to maintaining brand loyalty and integrity. It’s a brave tactic, but it’s working. If you get the loyalty and trust of the key opinion leaders, major professional societies, the social media aficionados in your niche industries, the advertising dollars follow.
M: How do you prioritize attracting new audiences vs. engaging existing users deeper?
F: Both are equal in priority. Social media engagement, affiliations and relationships with relevant, professional societies, as well as attendance at events and conferences are key tactics for us to attract new audiences.
M: What 's your social media strategy, and how important is it for you to be present on those platforms?
F: Social media is increasingly important to us for audience development and engagement. Our strategy differs slightly across each of the different industries in which we operate. For example, our pharma/biotech audiences are far more active on LinkedIn compared with any of the other major social media channels, whereas, readers of The Pathologist are incredibly active on Twitter.
We have a social media team who continuously monitor social media engagement and adapt our strategy accordingly. Our editors are also very involved; they know what their readers respond to, the hot topics, the quirky posts, and they work alongside the social media team to ensure that we’re catering for our social communities in the right way. Our social activities currently focus on building trust and growing our followers, as well as driving traffic to our websites, but the strategy is evolving all of the time in line with user habits.
M: Could you shed a bit of light on your revenue model?
F: Our revenues are derived from advertising. As with all publishing companies, we have had to diversify our advertising product portfolio, so while we offer traditional print and digital advertising, eBlasts, webinars, etc. – which actually still account for the lion’s share of our revenues – content marketing is a high growth revenue stream for us. And in that category, I would bundle articles, eBooks, videos, animations, infographics… We are constantly innovating and creating unique, content solutions to help our clients engage with our readers in the most interesting and impactful way.
M: How do you drive site visitors to your sponsored content?
F: We take the same approach to sponsored content that we do with our independent, editorial content. Our editors consult with clients in order to understand their goals and key messages, they then hatch a plan to deliver those key messages in the most impactful and engaging way, so that not only do our customers get the attention of our readers, their potential clients, but our readers learn something useful, too.
M: What’s your fastest growing area and what are you most excited about?
F: As a business, our expansion in the US is providing, by far and away, our largest opportunity for growth. I moved to the US just over two years ago to recruit a team and grow our business here and we’re expanding! In all of my years of working in publishing, driving our US expansion is the most exciting thing that I have ever been involved in. It’s also what keeps me awake at night, but in a very good way.
M: Why do you think your model has been successful?
F: We’re successful, because we never stop listening to what our readers and clients want, and we’re constantly on the lookout for areas of unmet need in our markets. As a result, we are always innovating. It’s certainly not as easy to grow a publishing business as it was when I first started out in this industry, but it’s absolutely crucial that we keep ahead of content consumption trends and continue to give our readers and clients a valuable experience when they choose to read, or work with, us.
M: From your own journey, what do you think other vertical publishers could learn?
F: It’s important never to assume that you know what’s best for your readers and clients; keep asking questions, evolve, improve. Always make sure that you’re giving your readers a reason to stick with you, to engage and to want to get involved, too.
Most importantly, recruit the right people to grow your business; I always hire people who can bring something different and new to the business. Texere is a company of diverse and incredibly skilled individuals, but one thing links us all; we’re passionate about what we do and we believe in it. If we didn’t, why should our readers be loyal to us, and why would our clients want to work with us?