I spent two years building up readers and reputation at Indus Delta and making no money, but it is now profitable and I employ a second person to do some of the work
- It takes time for people to get used to online news
- Today, about 8,000 people a month read the site – which is enough to make us attractive to advertisers
- My next move is to try running events and awards ceremonies
I started as a one-man-band outfit. I have been going two years. I operate in the welfare-to-work industry – it’s a micro niche. There are a few thousand people who know about the industry, and the long-term unemployed. The industry is made up of companies, charities and other organisations that receive money from the government to help people get off long-term unemployment.
Having worked in the industry since 2001, I noticed that there was no trade journal. As a result, people in the industry did not know what was going on. No one knew the industry’s history. What information there was, tended to come from the top. People in the industry believed what the government told them, and the unemployed themselves had no voice, nor means to work out what was going on.
The obvious way to change this seemed to be to set something up. Indusdelta.co.uk is not a pure news site. It also carries analysis, community, feedback from readers, and a database of government contracts. There are a range of different things of use to people in the niche. News is part of that. People in the industry think of me as a journalist – but I am not sure that I am, given that I do so much.
I launched the site in 2007. I figured on a year of building up readers and reputation. From late 2007 to early 2009 I made no profit on the site – so I self-funded from savings. At that point I had enough readers that I started to gain value.
Most of the stuff on the site is of interest to managers in the industry. Those people have a value to advertisers because there is no other way to reach them. Once I had reached them, I started to get recruitment advertisers, then industry suppliers. Since then, the advertising alone has been enough to produce a small profit. It has produced enough money to take on someone to help with administration and ad sales. The site is sustainable.
There have been quite a few issues – it has been a struggle, as a one-man band. A big issue for me was setting up a site by myself, instead of using a proper company. I was not that good at site development, advertising sales, handling technical issues or keeping the server up. All of those would be a problem for others. I can’t find anywhere that offers a full package of that kind of support.
It takes a long time for people to get used to a concept. People in the welfare-to-work industry took time to get on board with an online publication.
I guess that I have proven what I wanted to – a micro niche can work and generate money. Also, a free site can work. There is no registration wall. I can track users because there is a weekly email – that gives me a proxy for the people who read the site, which is about 8,000 each month.
That gives me enough information to get advertising, and advertisers give you information about what works.
The business is sustainable, but to generate more money I will have to try events, like awards ceremonies. Companies like Haymarket, which produces lots of trade publications, primarily make money from products other than print publications.
You can’t compete with free. There are others who have thought about competing with me, but they can’t work out a way to take me on – so I have a monopoly on welfare-to-work, which is nice.
Daniel Johnston is the founder of Indus Delta. Set up in 2007, indusdelta.co.uk is a niche news, analysis and community website for the welfare to work industry. It has since become the primary source of information for people working in or finding out about the industry, and sustains itself through advertising sales.