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Moose River Media

Moose River Media monetizes communities with ads, member benefits, research.

By Matt Kinsman

Korry Stagnito [pictured] became CEO of St. Johnsbury, Vermont-based Moose River Media, a b-to-b publisher serving the professional lawn and landscape, tree care, light construction, forestry and agricultural industries in December 2007 (the official first month of the recession). While Moose River is not a startup, Stagnito and his team are reinventing the approach for the long-time traditional trade publisher.

Print remains the dominant revenue stream although e-media is growing quickly. Moose River’s flagship magazine is Turf, a national publication with four regional editions and 74,000 circulation. In 2010 the publisher acquired American Nurseryman, which straddles the line between the green and agriculture industries.

While Moose River saw overall revenue growth of 2 percent in 2010, it also generated bottom line growth of about 38 percent, according to Stagnito. “You would think that’s due to cost-cutting and while we employed the usual cost containment measures, we improved quality at the same time,” says Stagnito. “We had a net decrease in people and expenses, but we improved our employees and our experience levels.”

While the company had some headcount reduction in 2010, it also brought back a publisher, three salespeople, a vice president of audience development and an editorial director. In 2007, 99 percent of Moose River employees worked out of St Johnsbury. Today, 33 percent of the employee base works in cities such as Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. “That’s where we’ve added outside salespeople and editors to get into the marketplace,” says Stagnito. “We had to do it the old fashioned way, but it has already enabled us to convert some previously shut-out business.”

Turf, which is a tabloid, reduced trim size to an oversized standard but also added heavier paper and perfect bounding. “The net effect was our audience thought we made a substantial investment in the property while at the same time we saved thousands of dollars,” says Stagnito.

Making Social Media a Real Business

While many independent publishers continue to struggle to reach that “sweet spot” of digital media accounting for 8-15 percent of total revenue, Moose River generates 20 percent of its revenue from online, driven in large part by monetizing online communities of a size not often seen (nor sustained) in b-to-b.

The effort was driven in large part by Sean Adams, Moose River’s vice president of online communities. The social media effort is dominated by two sites: and LawnSite, which was launched in 1999, today boasts 113,000 members, with nearly four million page views and almost 30,000 unique visitors each month, according to Google Analytics. “You can do a lot of things with traffic like that,” says Stagnito.

The communities are primarily monetized through advertising. Sponsors pay on a monthly basis for specific key words. The sites feature a keyword notification system—similar to Google alerts—through which advertisers can buy a word, brand or term. “Every time that brand or term is mentioned, you get an alert,” says Stagnito.

However, going forward, Moose River is developing revenue streams around social media that go beyond straight advertising, including member benefit programs such as group-buys for low cost health care coverage. The publisher is also developing an initiative called GreenThink that offers market research services to suppliers by asking members to provide input on vendor services.

“We have all these members who are not shy about the good and bad of their businesses,” says Stagnito.

Moose River has launched additional communities such as and Maintaining the communities comes down to close moderation—not to mention finding a market that fits, according to Stagnito.

 “We’ve launched a couple communities that failed, one size doesn’t fit all,” he says. “There is a fine line between moderation and censorship and we moderate the communities 24/7.”

Next Up: Mobile Products, Monetizing Audience

Mobile is the next big initiative. “The Green industry is highly mobile and people are in their trucks working from PDAs,” says Stagnito. “Our mobile traffic is about 5 percent of the total site visitors to and as that grows, we’ll monetize it as well.”

Moose River is also looking to monetize’s e-mail database through direct blasts and digital editions that reach more than 90,000 people who do not subscribe to the magazines.

“We consolidated the list database so we’d have greater intelligence on who these people are,” says Stagnito. “While we don’t think we can provide that data to our advertisers due to privacy concerns, we can tailor our publications to be more useful. We’re gathering that data now and will process it and put it into play this year."


By Matt Kinsman

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