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Dec. 6, 2016, 3:49 p.m.
Business Models

Stat launches a $299/year subscription with original content, events, and a private Slack group

“It was a high bar to just get out there and get people out there to know us and read us.”

Stat, The Boston Globe’s health and medicine site, has spent the better part of its first year intensely focused on audience and editorial growth. What started as a site centered on the activity in Boston’s biotech and pharmaceutical hubs has become a news operation with a broader reach, including national coverage and a more global readership. Just eight percent of its audience is in Massachusetts, and 25 percent comes from outside the United States.

With Stat Plus, Stat is trying to better focus on some of the readers it already has. Running for $299 per year (or $29 per month), the subscription service is designed to appeal to policymakers, service providers, and workers in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries looking for deeper insights into some of Stat’s core coverage areas. Veteran pharmaceutical industry columnist Ed Silverman, for example, will write an exclusive newsletter for subscribers. Stat will also offer subscribers early looks at some of its big stories, a strategy that Politico has successfully harnessed with Politico Pro.

“These are the types of stories of interest to a very defined audience we think will be willing to pay for a certain kind of value-coverage,” said Rick Berke, Stat’s executive editor, who said the introduction of the paid product doesn’t mean that Stat will shrink from the general interest coverage it’s produced over the past year.

Beyond exclusive editorial content, Stat Plus will also offer subscribers a chance to connect with each other and industry figures. Taking a page from the likes of The Information and Quartz, Stat plans to create a Slack group for its Stat Plus members, who will be able to sit in on Q&A sessions between Slack writers and industry sources. The idea reflects the interest among new subscription services to create a significant sense of community with readers, rather than a transactional, access-based relationship.

Stat’s resource investment in Stat Plus is delicate so far, however. Unlike Politico Plus, which launched with a staff of 40 people focused on it, few if any Stat staffers will write full-time for Stat Plus. That is instead dipping its toe into the premium product by rotating the editors assigned to Stat Plus, according to Berke. “We have to be realistic about how much content we can offer or benefits we can produce with the team that we have,” said Angus Macaulay, Stat’s chief revenue officer. (That said, Stat has 61 staffers — an increase from its already large staff a year ago.)

Ultimately, Stat hopes that Stat Plus will open up a viable new revenue stream for its operation, and reduce its reliance on advertising, which can’t solely support the costs of its large team indefinitely. The subscription service will also help better align Stat’s more niche policy coverage with the smaller subset of readers interested in going deeper on those stories.

Macaulay, who said that Stat Plus was in the site’s roadmap from its inception, said this is why Stat has spent its first year focused on building its audience and establishing its brand before testing a premium model. “It was a high bar to just get out there and get people to know us and read us. You can put this stuff on a spreadsheet until you’re blue in the face, but you don’t know how fast any of it’s going to happen.”

Photo of scientists at work by Hagerstown Community College used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     Dec. 6, 2016, 3:49 p.m.
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