August 2018 New(s) Ideas Winner
Just about everyone has a memory of buying a copy of the print newspaper on a memorable date, like the Chicago Cubs‘ landmark, “hundred-year-curse” breaking World Series win in 2016. And looking back at the newspaper from a specific day in history, such as our birthday or anniversary, is like opening a time capsule and remembering what the world was like at that important moment in our lives. Subatomic Digital takes those moments and creates unique, personalized gifts and collectors’ items from them.
Subatomic Digital didn’t realize the revenue growth potential of their products for news publishers when they launched their business in the early 2000s. But today, they have several newspaper customers for whom they develop custom products leveraging newspapers’ digital archives, like those they started out making and shipping for The New York Times.
While outside most publishers’ standard revenue models, Subatomic Digital’s ability to adapt to each newspaper’s needs makes it easy to get started earning revenue.
Subatomic Digital’s demo shows examples of how publishers can leverage their digital archive to open up new revenue streams.
We caught up with Alex Lintott, CEO at Subatomic Digital, to learn more about their products and how news media can leverage them to access untapped revenue streams.
What is Subatomic Digital?
Subatomic Digital is a platform that allows newspapers to drive additional revenue through sales of archive-based merchandise and gifts. We help design products like books, jigsaw puzzles and framed and unframed prints that utilize a newspaper’s archives. We are a designer, on-demand manufacturer and drop-shipper for newspapers who sell these products via their online stores, or a store we build and manage on their behalf.
How did the idea for Subatomic Digital come about?
Almost by accident. In the mid-2000s, we were doing a small amount of business with The New York Times – primarily framed and unframed front-page reprints that we drop-shipped for their store. When Obama was elected in 2008, we saw a huge spike in orders for framed front pages of his election victory and subsequent inauguration. This led to the question of what else we could do, and a number of additional products – including books and jigsaw puzzles – were developed and added.
What challenges does Subatomic Digital help news media organizations to overcome?
1. The ability to tap into an additional revenue source that many news media organizations ignore since it is outside of their standard revenue model.
2. A potential lack of resources needed to tap into this additional revenue source. Some organizations have the ability and desire to be heavily involved in the product design, store creation and store management. For those who do not, as long as we are able to get access to their digitized archive, we can take point on the process and get them setup – with a relatively low time investment from a customer.
3. Tying up much-needed cash. We don’t charge any fees for setup or product creation, and our customers do not hold any inventory. The only time a customer gets charged is when a sale is made, and we fulfill the order. We have found that making our offering as low-risk and low-investment as possible is the best business model for us to address our customers’ needs and businesses.
What are some different ways news media organizations can incorporate Subatomic Digital into their business?
We’re very flexible in how we work with our various clients – it is mostly dictated by their needs, requirements and resources. They can use us as an on-demand manufacturer and drop-shipper for a store they have or are building, or they can use us as a full-service platform for an eCommerce initiative – that is, have us setup and create the products, create an online store for them and take care of fulfillment and store management.
What has the response to Subatomic Digital been like from your news media customers?
At first, we generally need a bit of time to walk through the concept and how we work, since for most customers it is generally outside their standard revenue models. However, once we are up and running with a customer, the feedback is very positive. We’ve created six- to seven-figure new annual revenue for the majority of our customers, and our fulfillment time is three to five business days – and these are all personalized products.
What else does Subatomic Digital do?
While we also have a segment that provides services that help video content owners monetize content they own, our belief is that the services we provide to publishers are a vastly untapped market and are the current focus area for growing our company.
What is Subatomic Digital working on for the future?
We are continuing to build out our ability to shorten the on-boarding process for new clients, the main component being archive setup. This has become more critical this year, as we are currently on-boarding several clients with the goal of being live for the holiday season – many of these products are purchased as gifts during the holidays.
How can publishers interested in Subatomic Digital get started? Is there any special computer equipment or software required in order for newspapers to use it?
The only thing an interested party needs to get started is a digitized archive, and a way to get us access. Other than that, just a willingness to market the products to their readership – nothing else is required to get running.
What do you see as the future of news media?
News media is more important now than it has been in the past. However, many publishers are struggling with the conversion to a digital subscription model. My hope is that, with time, this transition will be managed successfully, and that we can help publishers drive an additional revenue stream through the transition. I also believe that many publishers will experiment with and find additional revenue streams such as events, promotions, eCommerce, which will make the overall industry stronger in the long-run.
Do you have a great New(s) Idea? Enter your product or service in our contest today – winners are selected and featured monthly, with a grand prize winner who will be selected in December to receive a dedicated eblast and webinar with Alliance news media members! Entries not selected during the month they were submitted are automatically entered for the next month. Click here to learn more.
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Lindsey is Director, Communications at the News/Media Alliance. Prior to joining the Alliance, she led communications for a food and nutrition nonprofit in Washington, D.C. for over eight years.