Case Study: Formica Blu (Italy)

The name of the publication and / or company

 Formica Blu

Established

2005

Web Address

www.formicablu.it

Form of the company

LLC

Describe your site or business in few words.

Elisabetta Tola, founder of Formica Blu, explains:

“Formica Blu focuses on journalism and science communication, using a cross-media approach that embraces paper, TV, radio and web. Beside our webzine and a web radio, we work as subcontractors for several news outlets (magazines, national and local radios, TV); we assist science editors, research groups and public organizations with information dissemination, communication plans, post-graduate training and audio-video productions. Although journalism (with that I mean our radio show “Radio3 Scienze” and our support to Wired, L’Espresso, Le Scienze, Mente&Cervello) guarantees us high visibility, the most of our profit comes from communication products. We also have independent science communication projects for which we seek bottom-up financing.”

Staff numbers

Who’s creating the content

Content creators, paid full-time

6

Content creators, paid half time

1

Content creators, paid freelancers

Occasionally.

How is your time divided between doing business and content?

“I would say 70% is devoted to content production, with about 30% for business matters – although everyone in Formica Blu is motivated to improve the company business (the acquisition of a new customer is rewarded with revenue shares). Separating business and content in a small company does not encourage creativity. Every journalist must be able to wear different hats.”

Business, marketing & sales, paid full-time

2

How they make money

Revenue models and sustainability

Would you say your business model is sustainable?

“Absolutely. We were never in the red, not even during the recent economic crisis. Formica Blu has now been alive for seven years, and the revenues are growing consistently. Our journalists perform in a flexible and motivating environment; they are compensated based on merit, and have an active role in our overall success. Since the acquisition of new clients is always rewarded, everybody is motivated to seek out new opportunities.”

How much is your yearly or monthly revenue?

300,000 Euro in 2011

Where does your revenue go?

“Our income mostly covers a variety of structural and organizational costs, such as salaries, office rent, staff travels and other expenses.”

How much do you pay to your contributors?

“Our salaries depend on each project and its funders; generally our revenue share model includes 10% to the person bringing in a new client; 30% for structural costs; 60% to journalists carrying the actual project. Bottom line: wages are directly proportional to tasks performed and new clients gained.”

What about profit?

“We would like to invest in audio and video production technology upgrades. We would also like to have more budget to spend in experimental projects that are not necessarily profitable, but might have a positive impact on our image. Perfect examples are the webzine BootmUp, the audioblog FMblue, the blog Vibrations (on seismic hazard) and InsidER, a project dedicated to researchers currently working in the Emilia Romagna region.”

Do you sell virtual or physical products?

Online courses, Audio, Video, Reports, Books, DVDs, Special editions of content

Other revenue sources

Freelancing – journalism, Freelancing – non journalism, Training, Consulting, Speaking, Events, Design, Crowdfunding (e.s. Spot.us)

Do you see your publication as your main product?

“Essentially we use our online publications to sell our services and find new clients. There is no need for advertisement or premium service offering.”

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

“Finding our own independent financing method, especially for our experimental projects. We are looking into crowdfunding options, especially for issues of general interest (as for example the seismic hazard””. In order to achieve a full financial sustainability, online startup companies need to continuously pursue innovation strategies.”