Case Study: Asymco (Finland)

The name of the publication and / or company

Asymco

Established

2010

Web Address

asymco.com

Form of the company

Sole proprietorship

Describe your site or business in few words.

Asymco is a technology oriented blog and business, owned by a former Nokia analyst Horace Dediu, who is based in Helsinki, Finland. The blog has a large international audience and it has been cited by business and technology publications such as Fortune, Forbes and Wired, for example. Mr. Dediu is very well-respected especially as an Apple analyst.

Mr. Dediu says the contents of his blog is analysis, not journalism. It’s not meant to be news or commentary. It’s meant to be taking those news and data, public information, and trying to interpret them. Initially, he planned to do app development, and the blog was intended as a way to promote that business. However, soon he found out that the type of work that was requested from the blog turned out to be more management consulting. He obtained some consulting engagements within three months from starting the blog and that is still the primary source of income for him.

Staff numbers

Who’s creating the content

Content creators

In addition to Mr. Dediu himself, who makes his living from Asymco, there is one other person who occasionally writes for the blog. He contributes an article every month or two as a hobby and to learn analytical writing. He isn’t paid for the articles. Mr. Dediu explains: ”I don’t derive much income directly from the site. He would be essentially promoting himself, so if it works to obtain some revenue from his reputation, then he gets to keep it, and I don’t have any claim on that.”

However, Mr. Dediu considers the comments (so far around 30 000) to be an essential part of the site: ”It’s a platform, and there are many people on the site who comment. To me, the comments are as important as the posts. I take them very seriously, which is perhaps a bit different from an average blog. The discussions are very insightful, and I think many of the people who comment see the blog as a platform to make their opinions heard. Therefore, the commenting for me is as important or more important than the posts. I consider commentors contributors themselves.”

Business, marketing & sales

No employees. Mr. Dediu says he doesn’t do much marketing. However, in different projects he has partners, who take care of a lot of administrative work.

How they make money

Revenue models and sustainability

Would you say your business model is sustainable?

Yes, it is. So far, I’m exploring a few opportunities. One of them is that I’m doing a conference to bring many people who are participants online to have a face-to-face meeting. And from the first few months, there have been some consulting engagements. Also, I’m trying to do a bit of advertising, but there isn’t a lot of income. One other thing that I tried last year was a bit of a laugh, I sold merchandise, and that also turned out to be a small profit. I’m very easily trying new things, and some are more interesting than others. I make the decisions based on not just economics but the workflow and the comfort and the fit with my life.

How much is your yearly or monthly revenue?

It varies quite a lot, I’m afraid, because consulting isn’t steady work, but I would say gross income is around 2000 euros a month right now.

If you are more profitable than expected, where do you plan to use the extra profit?

My dream would be to create an educational business. Not just the conference event but a place where you could take a workshop or courses where you’d learn what I do. My ambition would be to teach everyone to do what I do. Thus, it would be going from blogger to educator to creating a learning institution.

What kind of advertising you sell?

I’m having sponsors through an affiliate. I initially offered to have short blog posts that mention a product or a service. But the problem was that to obtain the sponsor, to maintain the relationship and to deal with the billing was too much work for me. One person offered to do that, and he created a syndicate of multiple sites that he could sell. The job of administration, payment management and everything else was taken over by him.

The second one that I’m trying right now is a small display ad that is targeted to the technology audience. It’s from another agency called InfluAds. I’ve only started it in February, so I don’t know how successful it’s going to be. I tried Google ads for a while, just a very small Google ad, to see the numbers. I was getting something like a hundred dollars a month, and it just wasn’t a lot of money. And I find their ads somewhat random, not very well targeted and annoying. I’ve only received one payment from the InfluAds so far, I think. It’s better than what I was getting from Google. To me, these are secondary sources of income, but I want to see how that works out.

Do you sell any other services?

Consulting, speaking and events.

Asymco’s first conference event takes place in Amsterdam on 13th of April.

We’ve had a good response so far, we have 150 people coming. This one is in Europe, and I’m hoping to do one in the U.S. six months after the first. If we succeed, we could keep this pattern of doing two conferences a year and if it really takes off, we can do more.

Do you sell any other virtual or physical products?

We’re going to record the conference and sell access to the video after the event. We have a professional production person coming to tape it, and they will edit it and make it available.

Last year I also sold merchandise, and that turned out to be a small profit. I sold a few T-shirts. This year, I’m thinking about doing some posters, then maybe some T-shirts. But that is an occasional thing.

There’s also another experiment that I did last year. I redistributed data that was used in by blog. But this was modestly profitable and there was a lot of work involved. I chose not to continue that. I felt that there was a difference between being a writer and being a report writer, because the creation of paid content is very demanding.

I have a partner who is building an application to be used with my content. But they’re doing it on their own and we may talk about having a license agreement or something like that.

Other revenue sources

I was invited to be a podcast host and I began to have regular podcast in the summer of 2011. This is done as part of a podcast network, there is someone who is managing that network, and I have a slot on it once a week. There’s some income the show gets, and the network keeps most of it, but it offers a huge audience. The URL is 5by5.tv and the podcast is called The Critical Path.

I have the donation option. I only put it there because I saw that 5by5 had one. It hasn’t been a lot of money, but anything is better than nothing.

It’s been suggested to me that I create a professional pay-site. Many sites have done this, where analysts offer more than journalism, but I haven’t committed to that.

I have ideas on businesses or revenue opportunities. But they all depend on having someone to be a partner with me to do it. The challenge is to find that partner. And I don’t seek the partners, I think that if someone steps forward with a suggestion, that qualifies them as a good partner because they took the initiative. For example, I didn’t seek out to do the conference, but I mentioned it to someone and they said ”I could help with that”. I said, ”if you can, let’s do it”. They took over a lot of the administrative work and found a place, set it up, so we have a profit-sharing agreement in that case.

Once you create a strong brand, you realize there are many businesses that can fit underneath. In many businesses, the brand is seen as something you spend money on and build. I’ve built my brand without capital required, only time, and it has already quite a lot of value.

Do you see your publication as your main product?

I think of myself as a writer, but I don’t think of the output as a publication as much as an ongoing discussion. I write every day, I want to create community, a feedback mechanism. But the main thing I say when people ask me why do I do what I do is because I feel like I’m learning a lot. The quality of the output, even though it’s free, is increasing all the time.

I was an analyst paid by a company for many years, and I feel I’m doing a much better job as an analyst now. The main reason for that is that I’m subject to a larger peer review process. If you create a report you may get an audience of 10–15 people, but if I write and have an audience of 30 000 people, then many more will come with feedback.

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

First of all, I want to make sure that this is fun. As long as it’s fun, and to me fun means learning and getting positive feedback, I maintain quality. And as long as there’s quality, there will be people who’ll be willing to pay something in some way to have access to more of that.