Dan Fink is the managing director of Money-Media, which is owned by Financial Times. He recently attended and spoke at his first SIPA Annual Conference and will be presenting at our Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) Nov. 13-15 on How to Optimize Your CRM to Drive Customized Campaigns that Excel. We spoke by phone for this profile.
SIPA: You mentioned when we were setting this up that you had a staff meeting that day. Are you pretty open with your staff?
Dan Fink: When it comes to how the business is doing, yes. It creates accountability and keeps people on the same page. Culturally, it's also an important element, and it's good to preach open discussion. Some things are sensitive—we don't talk about exact spend of individual clients, for example. But overall revenues, expenses, trends, profits, quarter to-quarter results, we are very open about—in a way that won't put journalists where they're not comfortable.
Money-Media joined Financial Times in 2008. Were you there before that?
Yes, I was a member of the original Money-Media company—for about two years before it was acquired. I was head of marketing. I've now been managing director for a little over five years. From a numbers perspective, we run well. We've grown in an impressive way. It's a credit to all the good work by the teams here. Fortunately, the main industry we cover, investment management, has grown during this time. However, the industry is now slowing down, which is spurring us towards diversification. We try to be creative with new products and revenue streams, and try to capture synergies with FT. The FT is a great organization to be a part of, and there's a lot they enable us to do, but at the same time we also like having a nice degree of independence.
How do you monetize your content?
A large majority of our revenue comes from subscriptions. Advertising is secondary and then events. We have eight news services—seven of the eight serve niches in the broad investment management industry. We're talking about fund managers such as Blackrock, Vanguard and Fidelity, as well as pension plans, college endowments—people who oversee a large pool of money to invest. We view subscription sales as the most important element, the main driver of revenue. It's a simple equation. If we're asking people to pay for good editorial, we have to deliver. It's a good sustainable business. Our retention rate is very high. You have to have that to be successful.
Have you been aggressive in moving to the digital world?
Yes, we've certainly added on numerous features—video, webinars, interactive graphics, mobile apps, tablet apps. We track web traffic statistics and have seen a growing shift to mobile, although the majority of our readers still view us on desktop. That's not surprising for a B2B audience; nonetheless our mobile audience is growing at a good rate.
So that must mean "data" is a big word for you now.
Yes, we look at trends; there's now a tremendous amount of data to look at, capture and make decisions from. We have a data team that works with all areas of the business. They help explain things and relate the data back to key business decisions. "Let me help you put that in perspective. If it's not clear, what are you trying to understand?" Whether it's sales, marketing or editorial, the data team is usually trying to help people better understand user behavior. We've also made big investments in automation to make sure we're contacting the right folks at the right time.
Where are you on the work remotely question?
For the sake of retaining proven talent, we have allowed people to work remotely on a permanent basis, but we prefer to have team members working together in the same office. Everyone can work from home on occasion; there's plenty of flexibility to maintain work/life balance. But in the big picture, there's also value in having an office that everyone can come to on a regular basis. Modern technology tools are helpful in bridging the gap when people are remote, but it's still not the equal value of face-to-face. We've been careful to maintain a balance, but we're certainly not looking to give up an office anytime soon.
Do you have to travel a lot?
I travel about 6-10 times a year. My kids consider that a lot. Some of Money-Media's products are based in the FT headquarters in London, so I visit there frequently. One of my trips is usually to Asia—we also have offices in Hong Kong and Manila, and I try to visit each office at least once a year.
Has the make-up of your staff changed over the years?
The tech team has certainly gotten bigger, as their role has grown in the world of publishing. As well, we created a commercial operations team, which includes the data team I mentioned earlier. We separate those two teams [commercial operations and technology] on purpose. Our tech development team is focused on building and maintaining products for the client, which has a clear set of priorities. There's a separate need for sales and marketing support with technology, such as CRM, email servers, automation tools, survey technology, and data. It has been a huge help having the commercial operations team available and focused on those priorities.
Technology enters into every facet these days.
Our savvy use of technology on the commercial side has allowed our sales reps and marketers to be more efficient than the past. Our sales process has evolved to incorporate better insight and automation, but hasn't changed fundamentally. Data and automation just allows us to do more with the same resources.
How are you doing with social media?
We've made a number of attempts to use social media. We're sensitive that what works with email may someday shift, but we have not seen that shift come to fruition yet. LinkedIn and Twitter are our best social media platforms for reaching our B2B audience. But the most effective tool for us is still email.
Is there anything that keeps you up at night?
Very much on my mind lately is, do we have the ability to diversify our portfolio of products? It's a pretty common concern for specialized publishers who want to keep growing. Finding new successes as we try to expand creates a need for expertise in new industries. It's exciting to explore how we approach that knowledge gap—a company rooted in investment management. How do we branch out into other sectors?