Edited excerpt from How We Got off the Addiction to Venture Capital and Created Our Own Way to Profits by Rafat Ali:
We became obsessed with the idea of our utility value to users who swear by us. This is a two-step test, which essentially says this: How much of a personal or professional utility value do your users ascribe to your brand? And how indispensable are you to the ecosystem you exist in? While media companies focused on scale-for-scale-sake talk about unique visitors to their sites, we talk about unique residents.
There are people who build media companies for valuation, then there are others who build media brands for value. Internalizing that difference has made all the difference to us.
All of this hides an ugly unspoken truth about media in general: that it is disposable, in so many ways. The key is to move towards making yourself non-disposable, by adding enough value.
(1) Focusing on genuine value creation creates a pathway to subscription revenue. It’s what we did at Seeking Alpha — started free while focusing on genuine value creation for investors, then added subscription products. See: Charging for content will only be successful if this condition is fulfilled.
(2) Cf. The content business: Entertainment, or helping users make decisions?