Friday Rant: Doubling Down on Spend Matters (Part 1)

There comes a time in the evolution of any idea -- or business -- where rapid introspection is preferable to any long, drawn-out goal-setting or visioning development process. Over the course of 24 hours in early November, I had one of these periods of punctuated strategy equilibrium where I quickly went from a state of panic on how to enhance Spend Matters’ business model and revenues, to a state of confidence about what would be required to take this thing to the next commercial level. Given the spirit of openness and community that I think a transparent model such as Spend Matters can foster, I thought I’d share, in a series of three columns, a number of things that came out of this strategy-development process, leading off with what led up to this moment of introspection (and where Spend Matters is today). After this, I’ll share what took place during the planning session itself and our view of perceived needs in the market. And last, I’ll share the specific new offerings and updated business plan that emerged which will, we hope, help us double or more in size and revenue next year while never losing focus on what got us to this point: engaging -- and hopefully informative -- opinions and content. Let’s dig into this first area today.

Spend Matters has come a tremendously long way in the past twelve months. At the beginning of the 4th quarter in 2008, we had decent traffic, some recurring revenue from a handful of sponsors -- usually four at one time -- and a loyal readership base (although I will say that some of the most loyal readers always took pleasure in harassing me when they thought the quality of the content was falling). Perhaps most importantly, at that point Spend Matters really only had one voice: me. Until that I point, I had made my musings and opinions the centerpiece of Spend Matters. Earlier this year, I decided to add other voices to the mix, shaking things up a bit while continuing to contribute at my usual level. The result of adding more relevant voices to the mix was not only more relevant content, but fresh perspectives as well. This, combined with some introspection and subsequent changes around the type of content I wanted to write, helped drive Spend Matters to a new level of readership.

Today, Spend Matters is read by thousands of people each day. If you believe the third-party ranking sites such as Alexa and Quantcast, we are among the most trafficked sites in the procurement and supply chain sector (click here for specific details as well as additional traffic and readership information). I personally think these ranking sites are bunk when it comes to zeroing in on precise traffic, but from a relative ranking perspective, they provide the only basis of comparison out there, even if they’re sometimes wrong even in this regard. Perhaps most interesting is that we’re finally in the same league traffic-wise as Purchasing (sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller, depending on the day and the traffic-comparison site). Our web traffic is a similar size to ISM’s, as well as significantly larger than other media sites including Supply Chain Management Review, Supply and Demand Chain Executive, Procurement Leaders, and Supply Chain Digest. And that’s not even factoring in Spend Matters' affiliate site, MetalMiner, focused on metals procurement and trade, which is hosted under a different URL and domain/ASP provider entirely.

In other words, Spend Matters, thanks to the content we crank out and the opinions we share, had become a top trafficked site in the space (if not the top site, depending on what metrics you believe) in the past 12 months on a global basis. But during the past 12 months, what did not catch up with our traffic and influence was a business model designed to make this thing worthy of the readership it had developed without reducing the current benefits and exclusivity for existing sponsors. This is precisely what led me to contemplate what to do in 2010 with Spend Matters. Stay tuned for the next installment in this series, where I’ll discuss what we discovered after a number of informal interviews with clients, colleagues, and friends about what they thought was lacking with Spend Matters, and how we could make the site -- not to mention the potential for a broader Spend Matters franchise -- more invaluable for both readers and sponsors alike.

Jason Busch

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