After seven years, The Industry Standard is back. Following months of rumors and thinly-veiled hints from parent IDG, the former "Bible" of the Internet economy has officially relaunched today as a Web-only publication. The site’s content is largely built from short contributions from a contingent of journalists and bloggers as well as a prediction market feature that uses community input to forecast event outcomes in the online economy market.
In 2000, the magazine’s heyday, The Industry Standard raked in about 7,500 pages of advertising. Now, expectations for the site are much more modest as the launch team of five staffers takes a wait-and-see approach to its success. Nevertheless, the brand has managed impressive resilience after essentially remaining dormant following a spectacular fall from grace. The magazine folded in late summer 2001 after negotiations between publisher Standard Media and majority owner IDG fell through-and, some industry observers felt, one too many rooftop parties. Final issues of the magazine barely scraped 90 pages and had the dubious distinction of being number-one in decline in ad pages and revenues.
Fast-forward six years and it seems the brand has remained near and dear to the hearts of Internet professionals. "We were happily amazed at how much recognition and brand equity there still was," says vice president and general manager Derek Butcher, who was formally Infoworld’s CTO. "We talked to a wide group of people and a branding agency. There will probably be some fallout due to the emotional history of it all, but the new Standard is ultimately going to come town to the proof in the pudding-we have to deliver, we can’t rest on the brand."
The site has been in development over the past year and has already been through a private beta test. Today’s launch triggers a public beta, an important step, says Butcher, since the "editorial collective" model is a new one for IDG, which is now the sole owner of The Industry Standard after purchasing its assets in bankruptcy court.
Content will be less news and more analysis–contributions from around 50 journalists and bloggers will be short, 300 to 500-word stories covering the same online economy market as the brand’s print heritage.
The prediction market feature, however, is where the real community functionality comes into play. After registering with the site, users get 100,000 "Industry Standard Dollars" to wager for or against a particular industry event. In the private beta, for example, testers bet on whether Microsoft would eventually buy Yahoo. The more users bet in favor of a prediction the more its market price goes up, the more that bet against it, the more its price goes down. "The price represents the market’s consensus of the probability of that event occurring," says Butcher.
Not just a novel community feature, the market predictor also has a business function. Butcher plans to package the metrics with user demographics and sell the information into the financial and media channels. The site currently has an exclusive deal with IDG’s research group IDC for the IT channel.
The site’s second revenue stream comes from traditional display ads-Intel is exclusive launch sponsor for the first three months.
Butcher declined to elaborate on the site’s development budget beyond describing it as a "typical skunk-works" operation that should break even fairly quickly. "We managed to keep costs very low. Even with very low traffic numbers, we’ll break even because of the sponsorships and the research deals," he says, adding that after a year anything below 500,000 monthly page views would be considered "disappointing."