OSD 201: America’s Test Range
One way to predict the future is to find something at the intersection of:
Users would happily pay for it if it did exist.
There’s no structural barrier (technological, legal, etc.) to it existing.
Then it’s a race between you and the efficient-market hypothesis to see who can launch the thing first.
For one thing in the center of this Venn diagram, the gun industry can take inspiration from the food world. Specifically America’s Test Kitchen. (They also own the Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country brands.)
ATK’s pitch is simple. They do recipes and kitchen equipment reviews, they buy equipment at retail instead of getting demo units from the manufacturer, and they don’t accept ads. When they publish a recipe for the perfect fried eggs, it’s because they tested 50 variations on 100 people and found the recipe for the perfect fried eggs, damn it.
It’s a healthy business. Cook’s Illustrated magazine launched in 1993 and has navigated the rise of the internet well. From a 2019 profile of the company:
America’s Test Kitchen’s subscriptions business, which currently has 1.3 million paid print subscribers between its Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines and 420,000 paid digital subscribers, makes up 60% of the company’s overall revenue, and CEO David Nussbaum said this area is experiencing double-digit growth year over year. That’s why on Jan. 2, Nussbaum said the company has a pretty good idea what the revenue will be that year, based on how many subscriptions they have. Recurring revenue is a helluva drug.
The unpredictable factors making up the remaining 40% of the company’s revenue are how many books it will sell in a year — it had 1.3 million book sales in 2018 — and the number of sales through affiliate links connected to its product reviews.
The defining traits of this model are:
Revenue comes mostly from end-users paying directly for the content or from (Affiliate revenue makes up 7-8%.) → Forcing function to make the content so good that people will pay for it
No ads → No conflict of interest
Scientific review methodology → Reliable and repeatable findings
Ad-supported models are fine, but are just part of the picture. This other approach doesn’t exist as a common one in the gun space, but there’s no structural reason it can’t. It’s just that nobody has quite done it yet. It’s right in the middle of the Venn diagram we explained above.
What are your favorite other examples?
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