Founder | Light Reading
In the swirl of magazine â€śTweetingâ€ť and â€śFacebooking,â€ť there are some that do social media better than others. Stephen Saunders, co-founder, president and CEO of online startup Light Reading and later Internet Evolution, is one of the few with a successful strategy.
Saunders founded Light Reading in 2000, an online source for technology and financial analysis of the communications industry, and sold to UBM in 2005 for $33 million. He then took a six month break only to hit the ground running with Internet Evolution, a macrosite for Internet news, analysis and opinion.
What makes Saundersâ€™ models different from other online media networks is that Light Reading and Internet Evolution monetize their audience with a content-driven, integrated publishing model. With Internet Evolution, he â€śwanted to take what was happening with social networking technology and apply to the b-to-b space. Really, itâ€™s unusual for a single sponsor [IBM] site to get that much notice. My hope is that this model with be used as a template for other publishers.â€ť
Unlike a typical social network, a b-to-b social network requires publishers to rethink what a social network should be, explains Saunders. Content needs to be professionally producedâ€”and paid forâ€”to get user discussion underway. No more are the days of free, user generated content, he says. In the case of Internet Evolution, it was an investment. â€śOver the year, we put close to 700 blogs up on the site, generating 20,000 messages,â€ť he adds. Unlike many social networking models struggling to monetize, Saunders says that, â€śAt no point was any decision [with regards to Internet Evolution] speculative. There is always a clear justification for UBM.â€ť
Saunders, who is now working as a consultant (or insultant, as he refers to himself), says that Internet Evolution will roll out digital streaming this May, and is working to make IBMâ€™s non-mobile materials mobile, â€śbasically becoming a service provider.â€ť
VITAL STATS: Light Reading was sold to UBM in 2005 for $33 million. Internet Evolutionâ€™s 700 blogs generate around 20,000 messages.