How a B2B outlet that covers the corporate travel industry built up a loyal subscriber base
The Company Dime mostly eschewed sponsorship revenue and focused instead on delivering high-quality journalism.
Welcome! I'm Simon Owens and this is my media newsletter. You can subscribe by clicking on this handy little button:
For most B2B media outlets, advertising plays a central role in how they generate revenue. Because corporate vendors have long sales cycles and charge high prices for their products, they’re often willing to pay top dollar to reach highly niche audiences within their industries. That’s why it’s not uncommon for B2B publishers to charge tens of thousands of dollars to sponsor a webinar that’s only attended by a few hundred people.
But when David Jonas and Jay Campbell launched The Company Dime — a B2B media outlet that covers the corporate travel industry — in 2014, they decided to mostly eschew any business model that relied on sponsorships. “We’re trying to avoid getting into advertising and the other marketing models that typically generate media revenue,” they wrote early on. “We hope we won’t ever do ‘custom’ publishing. The biggest driver of revenue in the B2B media industry is events, but we don’t want to start a conference that requires sponsors in order to be economically feasible. We want to keep saying ‘No, thanks’ to industry players offering to invest in us.”
Given the size of the corporate travel industry — some estimates put it at $711 billion — that’s a lot of potential money left on the table. So how did they plan to generate revenue? Their thesis laid out on their “about” page is fairly straightforward: “What you see here is a simple, reader-funded service. We don’t have investors and are not looking to sell the company when it grows. It’s risky, but we’re betting the professionals we serve will reward us with continued self-employment.”
As Campbell explained to me, they launched The Company Dime without grand ambitions to sell it at a high price, partly because both had already succeeded at selling another B2B outlet they jointly owned. Instead, their only goal was to generate a full-time income while putting out high-quality journalism.
For the most part, they’ve succeeded at reaching this goal. Though they take on the occasional research project or brand partner, The Company Dime reached the point in 2018 when it was generating enough subscription revenue to cover expenses and pay their salaries. “It was at that point when we said, you know what, we can do this with subscriptions alone,” Campbell told me.
In a recent interview, he walked me through how he learned the corporate travel beat, why they stuck to a subscription model, and what lessons he carried over from his first stint as a media entrepreneur.
Let’s jump into my findings…
Learning the corporate travel beat
Campbell has been covering the corporate travel industry for about as long as he’s had a career.
It actually started when he was a college student at Boston University; he got a part-time job at Air Travel Journal, a newspaper that focused specifically on covering Logan International Airport. “It was started by an entrepreneur who was kind of a legend in Boston,” he recalled. “He created a couple of different trade publications around the travel industry in New England, including that airport paper.” It was distributed via newspaper stands around the airport and read by both the travelers and the people who worked there. “He would sell ads for both of those crowds.”
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial