The State of Play: In mid-January 2021, WSJ covered Axios HQ, a $10,000 per month program to support internal corporate communications. Digiday reports that they’ve had about 100 customers signed up, including AT&T, Delta and GetUpside, beta testing the software for the past year and earning Axios approximately $1 million in revenue.
Details: That’s not insignificant for Axios, which was on track to make $58 million in 2020, and its most recent fundraise was in 2017 for $20 million. Even years before this, in 2016, CEO James VandeHei had announced plans for a $10,000 subscription, reported by Vox and Vanity Fair in 2016.
Honestly I Can’t Believe I’m Still Writing Like This: I thought it’d be appropriate to do this post the Axios Way. And if you’re still reading this, it works. (And it only gets better!)
Go Deeper: Asides from a chance to write things the Axios Way, the most interesting thing to me is its bundle. There are three components to the Axios HQ bundle:
- Coaching: Axios is known for its editorial expertise, especially its conciseness. They’ve spent years developing this competency—or at least a reputation—for highlighting the important stuff and filtering out the fluff. That taste and that style guide is really valuable here. The most important thing, though, is its reputation and the credibility that comes with being known for good writing and punchy news. Through Axios HQ, it is now making its people available for coaching to support internal communications.
- Templates: Axios already has a bunch of templates that they use for their writing and editorial operations. In a way, its team’s expertise has already been bundled, in a sense, in the templates. It has made a standard operating process out of it and created its own criteria for doing it. Together, its editorial expertise and templates contribute to its theme of smart brevity.
- Technology: The final, and arguably most important, component is the technology. Alone, the coaching and the templates might not be worth $10,000 per month. But the technology makes it so that Axios HQ is not merely offering coaching services and templates, but an actual word processor, analytics, and software capabilities. It offers higher value and somewhat justifies the price.
The technology is the container for everything. It’s the key layer that enables Axios to offer more insights, such as pattern recognition in the word processor to see how well written a passage is, or analytics into how well a newsletter is performing, and such. Companies like WaPo and Vox license out their content management systems, but Axios HQ seems to be the first to position its product specifically for internal communications.
Why It Matters: Axios has processed and re-bundled its by-products—internal tools—and sells it as a software as a service business targeted towards big teams to improve clear communications and productivity. If 100 people save 6 minutes each, that’s a cumulative 600 minutes—10 person hours—and those time savings go up with each email.
- As I’ve mentioned before, in The Death of the Artist, fiction author Ben Sobieck says (p. 171), “Content may have lost its price, but not its value.” Sobieck was right—for the past 20 years, mainstream media business operators have tied earnings to advertising, which meant optimizing for attention.
- Now, with the bundling of its expertise, templates, and technology, Axios HQ has unlocked the communication value of writing expertise, tied it to the business pain of productivity, and in the process brought the price back to where it should be for writers.
- If you’re offering coaching or services, the lesson here is to have a look to see which repeatable services you’re offering can be standardized into templates or courses. But more importantly, educate yourself on what technology is available. Start small; it might simply be a dashboard to organize a bunch of different integrations and analytics. Or try GPT-3 with something like Snazzy. (Jury is out on its writing capabilities.)
- Talk to your friends—or acquaintances—in technology. Talk to your customers and see what they want, and where you and they see potential cost savings. Look at what you’re doing right now that can be automated or better processed with technology.
How You Do It: The key to pricing higher is to reconsider how you bundle your writing and editing services.
- If you’re trying to get into the consulting game, target a business pain or objective—marketing, recruiting, internal communications, PR, etc. Sell the bundle for a higher price, and make something exclusive (in Axios’s case, its editorial expertise and templates).
- There are dozens of other ways to bundle your work, of course. If not the service, then repackage your previously compiled content, like Nautilus does with each of its issues. (Or Nik Goeke and Luke Rowley’s Gumroad store.)
The Bottom Line: Writing is not immune to business forces; it is all about bundling and unbundling. Keep your ideas at an atomic size, and don’t always start from scratch when you write. Instead, organize and process the by-products so you can sell them later. Use them to make more money, or at least, as material for self-promotion so you don’t have to spend so much time on it.
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