Publisher, CEO Creative COW
By leveraging social media even before there really was â€śsocial media,â€ť Creative COW has proven a small, independent publisher can dominate a niche.
Publishers today are scrambling to build up online communities. Creative COW (which stands for Communities of the World), is a peer-to-peer support resource for professionals in the film, broadcast and related fields thatâ€™s used social media as its foundation since its launch in 2001 (the companyâ€™s roots actually go further back to the mid-1990s, when Lindeboom partnered with another organization).
Today, Creative COW serves a market of more than 1.5 million professionals in three ways: more than 200 forums at its site (with a quarter million active accounts; training tools such as podcast and video; and newsletters and a print magazine.
â€śWeâ€™ve been doing this before anyone really had a word for it,â€ť says Lindeboom, who founded Creative COW with his wife Kathlyn. â€śAt our core, we donâ€™t think weâ€™ve changed much, the marketplace is catching up to what weâ€™ve been doing. Weâ€™ve had moderated discussions from the very start. Weâ€™ve never allowed our forums to be on autopilot, every forum is moderated, every new poster watched until weâ€™re confident that theyâ€™re legitimate.â€ť
Advertising is sold as a package across the different channels, rather than a standalone buy per medium. â€śFor the most part we sell packages, we donâ€™t like to sell standalone things,â€ť says Lindeboom. â€śOur newsletters are our number one result generator for clickthroughs and conversions. One large camera manufacturer said they get more buys from our newsletters than any other advertising they use.â€ť
Podcasts are hugely popular (Blackberry recently asked to include Creative COW podcasts in its digital playbook) but they havenâ€™t been an advertising success. â€śIn the last 30 days, weâ€™ve had half a million people download podcasts but its tougher than nails to find sponsors for those things,â€ť says Lindeboom.
Where the company has had success is in building a paid circulation audience with its b-monthly magazine, charging $14.95Â for an annual subscription and gradually converting controlled subscribers to paid. â€śWeâ€™ve now attained a level where our sub rate pays for at least one of our magazines,â€ť says Lindeboom.
VITAL STATS: Creative COW generates about $2 million in revenue per year.