The Business Journals is launching services to diversify its revenue

The Business Journals — owned by American City Business Journals — wants to expand beyond advertising, subscriptions and events, so it’s developing services for its readers. At the beginning of the year, the chain of 43 publications launched SelecTalent, a tool to assess job applicants. Evaluations cost $169 apiece, though price breaks kick in for customers that purchase more than one at a time. Another product aimed at helping businesses identify and retain clients is set to be rolled out in the fourth quarter.

SelecTalent is the first step in a shift that The Business Journals began two years ago to diversify its revenue. The Business Journals — an arm of Advance Publications, which also owns Condé Nast — wants services to contribute one-third of annual revenue by 2023. The private company wouldn’t give its revenue breakdown.

“We feel like we have an advantage here,” said Jennifer McGuigan, CMO of The Business Journals. “A lot of [small- to medium-sized businesses] don’t even know that this type of assessment exists in hiring. We’re doing a lot of educating.”

SelecTalent has been in the works for about 18 months. Instead of focusing purely on content and subscriptions — it has 433,000 print and digital subscribers — the service is supposed to help its audience grow their businesses, advance their careers and save time at work.

To diversify its revenue sources, The Business Journals has turned over 40 percent of its 40-person product staff to emphasize products outside its core publications. It’s also trying to get more direct connections with its audience.

To keep abreast of what its audience wants, The Business Journals hired a new head of research and established a 30,000-person panel, the Business Journals Business Advisors Program, which it polls monthly, on topics like how they educate themselves in their fields and how they hire and retain talent.

Deciding to think of itself less as a media company and more as a business that helps serve its existing audience’s needs “opened a door,” said Jonathan Shaw, The Business Journals’ head of product. “The focus is trying to serve the customer, rather than: ‘We need to redo the article pages because everybody else is doing that,’” Shaw said.

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