Case Study: Varese News (Italy)

The name of the publication and / or company

Varese News



Web Address

Form of the company


Describe your site or business in few words.

Varese News is an online-only local newspaper, often described as one of the best practice in Italian new media landscape. Founded in 1997 and having survived the Dot-com bubble, it gradually became the most read publication in the Varese area, surpassing even the well-established local daily La Prealpina. Having focused from the very beginning on technological innovation and community building, today their website has 80,000 unique visitors per day and it is financial sustainable. In 2000 the overall company structure was modified to include main trade associations, unions, some enterprises and other local institutions.

Marco Giovannelli, founder and editor-in-chief of Varese News, explains: “We created a publication attuned to its readers, able to provide information fitting their interests rather than those of local politicians. This enabled a fast growth and increased services for our readers. Throughout these years Varese News was able to build a strong reputation: our brand is our true strength. We have reversed a traditional strategy based on political ties to prosper: the community of readers is our real asset, and this makes us consistently sustainable and profitable.”

Staff numbers

Who’s creating the content

Content creators, paid full-time


Content creators, paid freelancers


How is your time divided between doing business and content?

“Most employees (about 20) work with content development and production, while 5 of them run the business and marketing units. My time is equally divided among journalism activities, public relations, business and strategy development.”

Business, marketing & sales, paid full-time


How they make money

Revenue models and sustainability

Would you say your business model is sustainable?

“Our business model is completely sustainable. It is mainly based on advertising (80% of our overall budget, mostly from direct sale) along with consulting and other services. The strength of Varese News lies in its community of reference and in its perfectly defined character. Its sustainability is built on the 2 million unique visitors per month and the time that they spend on our site (an average of 7 minutes per visit). These results benefit our advertisement sales as well. The success of Varese News confirms that web outlets are the right answer for countries like Italy, where 60% of the population does not read newspapers.”

How much is your yearly or monthly revenue?

1 million euros in 2011.

Where does your revenue go?

“More than half of our revenues are used to cover staff salaries. Then we have to pay taxes, sales commissions, technology and services expenses (approximately 10% of our budget).”

How much do you pay to your contributors?

“We tend rely on few freelancers, since we prefer to have a more stable and lasting cooperation relationship with people working with us. Generally speaking, each freelance receives a monthly salary that ranges between 200 and 1200 Euro, depending on their specific role and contributions.”

What about profit?

“We wish to invest at least 50% of our revenues to upgrade our production and content distribution platforms. Secondly, we would like to hire more people in our staff. Lastly, we would like to strengthen our presence within our geographical area, trying to give something back to the local community (organizing events, promoting initiatives).”

What kind of advertising you sell?

Ad Networks, Cost Per Impression (CPM), Cost per Click (CPC), Sponsorship, Text links, Job Boards or Classifieds, Mobile ads

Other revenue sources

Selling Audio and Video. Freelancing – journalism, Freelancing – non journalism, Training, Consulting, Events, Donations.

Do you see your publication as your main product?

“Varese News is our main product, the most popular and most profitable.”

What would be the most important thing on your road to sustainability?

“We would like to move on from the model of free news paid by advertisement. Probably this change will be difficult, but we must transition to more reliable and long-lasting financing methods (like paid subscriptions, for example). Our next big challenge will be developing different products tailored to each media; we need to move on from the concept of ‘same content for different containers’: social networks, web TV and tablet applications all require their own specific content to meet the needs of different users.”