Co-founder and CEO Microcast Communications Inc.
Perlman exemplifies the small publisher’s quest to identify an underserved niche target with an integrated media model.
Al Perlman knows the big publisher model well. He spent years at CMP, overseeing magazines such as Computer Systems News, Network Computing and ComunicationsWeek, and two years as president of Ziff Davis Business Media. After a few years off, Perlman got back into the game, teaming up with partners Mike Perkowski and Gary A. Bolles to launch Microcast, a small custom events company serving the information technology space.
Or at least that was the original model. The custom events space rapidly filled with competitors. “The margins weren’t getting better,” says Perlman. “They’re difficult to pull off and the market has been flooded with them.”
However, one of Microcast’s other ventures, focused on the growing municipal wireless space (where cities develop their own wireless networks), is taking off. Microcast had teamed with Esme Vos, a former intellectual property lawyer turned blogger for the muni wireless space. Microcast has created a community for that space centered on the blog, but also developed an expanded Web site, a magazine, market research, three national conferences and some smaller events. “We’ve taken a blog written by one person, and a targeted, niche community, and created a significant media business out of it,” says Perlman. “It’s less than a couple years old and will probably be $3 million in revenue this year.”
Microcast recently held a Muni Wireless event in Dallas that drew more than 400 attendees and 30 sponsors. The company also offers MuniWireless Magazine and TechIQ, a print quarterly. “The print doesn’t drive the business, it’s an adjunct,” says Perlman. “But we’re good at magazines, and there are things you can do in print that you can’t do online.”
Perlman wants to find new markets like Muni Wireless where a community has been built online, and bring an integrated media approach to it. “Part of the challenge when you have a small company is to stay under the radar because you get a big company trying to look at the same markets.”
Microcast’s Muni Wireless business should generate $3 million this year while total company revenue should be in the $5 million range.