Innovation from specialist media pioneers

While mass media and newspapers struggle to find new business models, independent and specialist media are quietly innovating and finding new ways to beat the UK recession and expand internationally.

The Media Pioneers awards have just been launched by the organisers of the Specialist Media Show, to recognise and celebrate entrepreneurial thinking among independent and specialist media owners. Here are the stories of the first five award winners: I hope they inspire you. Get the updates on the latest award winners on the Specialist Media Network on Linked-in; they’ll also be published here and on the Specialist Media Show website. At the show the finalists will be judged.

1. Athletics weekly sets the pace on iphone

A small independent publisher of a magazine for elite runners pioneered an iphone app, charging subscribers £1.19 a week for unlimited access to current and past issues.

2. Cricket World reaches 1 million enthusiasts worldwide

Grantham-based publisher Cricket World has grown over the last 3 years to reach 1.1m users, driven by its live TV webcasts, audio commentaries, breaking news and interviews for cricket fans worldwide. Users can interact by email, photos and live chat. They now have their own studios for advertisers to create video content.

3. Brits launch French ex-pat newspaper

Nicki Wade and team launched multi-section “broadloid”  The French Paper from her idyllic french countryside home. It offers ex-pats insight to culture, lifestyle and procedures in France. Quality journalism has resulted in beating budgeted copy sales.

4. My Hobbystore supplies hobby and craft enthusiasts worldwide

MyHobbystore publish modelling, woodworking and craft magazines, and have now moved into becoming online retailers and organising events. The products hobbyists need are hard to find, so myhobbystore set up an ecommerce business with many suppliers. Magazines create the interest and drive readers to the online store. Revenues are up 75% yoy, with overseas business growing.

5. Racing Post signs up 15% of web users to online subs

Racing Post has put its premium content behind a paywall, and now has over 10,000 active subscribers; representing 15% of their committed (daily visitors) customers. Target for 2010 is to double this number. They have left 90% of their content outside the wall to drive traffic.

Why have these independents succeeded where large companies get bogged down? Partly because in specialist markets they are close to their customers and can spot trends quickly. Also they are small and agile enough to grab an opportunity. New online tools now make it easier for small publishers to test new approaches.

If these stories inspire you, then join the Specialist Media Network on linked-in and watch out for more on the Media Pioneers. And put the date of the Specialist Media Show – 25 May 2010 – in your diary, and come to meet some of these pioneers face to face and learn from their experiences.

Carolyn Morgan is Content Director for the Specialist Media Show. She also runs Penmaen Media, which creates practical digital media and marketing strategies, and has a particular expertise with media businesses. Please contact Penmaen Media to discuss how we can help you pioneer new revenues for your media business.