John Yedinak, CEO of Aging Media Network, jokingly refers to himself as a college dropout who went to work with his “really smart brother,” George, to try and make his own business work. Yet the company the two of them have built since 2011 is anything but a joke.
Aging Media Network launched as a digital-only B2B publisher with two brands—Reverse Mortgage Daily, which John launched in 2006, and Senior Housing News, launched by George in 2008. The two merged their operations in 2011 and have since introduced four more brands (including one this year) to the company’s core market of senior care professionals. The company is also turning a profit and growing in both revenue and staff size.
Aging Media Network may be small in comparison to many legacy publishing companies, however the Yedinak brothers have built it from the ground up, without investor or private equity funding.
With such an interesting story to tell, we decided to take some time to speak with Yedinak to hear more about the progress his company has made, his passion for B2B publishing, the future of his business and of the industry in general.
Folio: You recently told us you were profitable and growing. So looking back eight years, is Aging Media where you hoped it would be in 2020?
John Yedinak: When we started the business we really wanted to figure out how to survive. We had two publications at the time. We thought if we had 12 people there wasn’t anything we couldn’t do. I look back at that and laugh. We are now a staff of 25 and we need great people to execute.
We never thought we’d be at this point where we are today. But over the last two years, we figured out what we wanted to do and the sorts of products we wanted to offer. It has scaled well across different industries. And as we get used to this, it’s becoming more exciting.
Folio: Would you say your approach is audience or product first?
Yedinak: We think about our audience first, and then the kinds of products they would want. We are a news organization first. We break news, and that is core to what we do and that won’t change. One thing we do is look at our audience and ask what we can do at scale across our portfolio and build out from there. At the end of the day, each industry wants the same thing, which is an editorial product that informs and has value.
Folio: You obviously saw a hole, or at least a lane, in the market when you launched the company. Likewise, you saw an opportunity to launch into a new subset recently with Behavioral Health Business. How do you identify these underserved markets and what measures do you take before you commit?
Yedinak: So when we look at new markets, it’s not off the cuff. We think about a good fit for our company and brands. With Behavioral Health, for instance, I had been studying that space for two to three years.
You need to first learn who the competitors are and if they are any good. Then, If we have the opportunity to deliver a better editorial product, we go for it. We only have a certain amount of money to invest, because we aren’t funded by investors. So when we’re looking at new market we’re thinking about how to add value. Then we build on news and content around that. We do have a standard playbook, but the core of who we are is the editorial product. It’s expensive to produce but gives us a competitive advantage.
Folio: Have you considered acquisitions?
Yedinak: We’ve looked at two or three different things. We’re profitable, so we have some cash to reinvest. We bid on a couple things and lost. But I think there are some things out there with small staffs who need resources and the ability to scale, so I think that’s where we could help and grow over time.
Folio: How much experimenting do you do, and are there products you haven’t launched that you’re exploring?
Yedinak: There’s little we haven’t tried.
We have beta tested a print product to see if we could do it and deliver real value. But when we look at these ideas we think about if it can move the needle and I don’t know if print is the way to do that. But we do see a lot of value in it for conferences and a way to introduce people to a brand.
We are also set up to launch a paid product if we chose. But for right now we have a model that seems to be working.
Folio: You must have some challenges, too. This is the publishing industry after all.
Yedinak: My biggest challenge is finding great people. We need people that want to be part of building a next-generation B2B media company.
How do we make B2B cool?
Usually I can get young people excited about our company and market once I get them in the room. But B2B, in general, has a talent problem, but I think we can change that. We need to pound our chests a little. We move markets every day—massive markets.
There are only so many people who get to work at The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, so I think specializing makes somebody more valuable down the road. I think that’s part of the future for digital media. There are so many verticals people have an interest in.
Folio: Given that you’re in the healthcare space, specifically for the elderly, the Covid-19 virus is obviously something you have to respond to. So how are you approaching it?
Yedinak: We’re covering it because the industry wants us to. We’re trying to be helpful. Is there a new line of business for us? Probably not. But because the majority of our publications are dealing with the elderly or unique subset of the population we need to stay on top of it. We’re hopeful it all gets better soon.
Folio: In regards to the industry as a whole. What kind of impact could this have on publishers, especially as we see how it’s effecting the markets?
Yedinak: We’re [Aging Media] managing through it. But this is the first time I have had a lump in my gut where I have felt uncertain about things. It’s not easy. We’re lucky to be diversified enough to get through this. I think other companies who are well diversified should get through this as well, but there is going for be some pain for everyone [in publishing].
Folio: We’ll wrap things up on a more positive note. What has you excited about your own business and being in publishing right now?
Yedinak: We’re building every day. We have publications in different lifestyles and that’s exciting. That’s what keeps me excited.
In terms of the industry, I think there’s a lot of new, small, hyper-focused digital verticals coming to the market. Selfishly I probably see a little of myself in some of them. You don’t need huge finances to build a successful business. It’s a cool time to be a media entrepreneur for sure.