Former WSJ tech reporter and editor Jessica Lessin officially launched a tech news site this morning.
It's called The Information.
According to a letter from the editor, its intended audience is " professionals in technology and in industries being upended by it."
To read its articles, you're going to have to shell out $399/year or $39/month.
That fee has a lot of tech media insiders on Twitter cracking wise.
After I heard about it, I tweeted, "CYBER WEDNESDAY DEAL: Pay me $199 per year and I will tell you what they're writing about on @theinformation."
That's a made up deal, of course.
The truth is, it will cost you a lot less than $199 to hear from me and my BI colleagues any breaking news reported by The Information.
If they report something you'll want to know about it, we'll share it with you for free – via a link or a story that adds context or a new angle.
But here's the thing.
While all of us are laughing about how information wants to be free, Lessin and her colleagues are probably going to build a nice business for themselves.
The company has five full-time staffers and two more contractors.
If you figure the cost of each employee is about $100,000, then The Information only needs to find about 1,800 annual subscribers to break even. Fewer if people go for the monthly option.
At that point, Lessin will have created a media company that pays five journalists solid full-time wages. And she'll be doing it her way – with serious headlines for serious stories written for serious people, etc.
At that point, the company will be a success by any sane measure of success.
(Are your investors happy? Check. Employing people sustainably? Check. Living a fulfilled life doing it? Check.)
If Lessin somehow finds 5,000 subscribers, her company will have a profit of $1 million. Ten thousand, and Lessin will be $2 million into the black.
Maybe Lessin will re-invest those profits into paying her journalists more or sending them around the world.
Maybe she'll stick it in a bank account and remember all our laughing. And then do it again the next year.
The thing is: $2 million profits are not a big deal at lots of companies we write about here at Business Insider.
But that's because we're usually writing about big public companies or small startups that are venture-backed and have to become huge companies to justify the seed capital.
Lessin and The Information doesn't have to worry about all that. It's boot-strapped.
The big question is: Can The Information find 2,000 or 10,000 subscribers?
Remember, the audience is people who will use a company credit card to pay. All they have to do is justify the subscription as something they need to be their very best. That won't be hard.
Read Lessin's "Letter From The Editor" and see if your inner-CFO doesn't start reaching for that big rubber "APPROVED" stamp.
We are focusing on writing for readers we think are underserved: professionals in technology and in industries being upended by it. These readers find plenty to read every day but they don’t consistently find news that is relevant to them and their business challenges. They don’t often find news that takes a stand supported by facts. We aim to do both.
So, instead of chasing the highest number of eyeballs, we will chase and deliver the most valuable news. We’ve set the bar high. To succeed, we need to write articles that deliver value worth paying for. That’s why we’re a subscription publication.
At Business Insider, we've built a subscription business for a similar audience. We charge a similar price. Business Insider COO and President Julie Hansen says it's up to "thousands" of subscribers.
It helps that we have a well-known brand — but then, so does Lessin and so do her colleagues, having made a name for themselves at fancy publications.
This is a thing that can be done.
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