LaPointe spent more than 20 years at Inc.before leaving in 2001 to form his own custom publishing and marketing services company, Trendline Communications, which Mansueto acquired in tandem with the May 28 hiring of LaPointe. Trendline will be fully integrated into the Inc. operation.
“In addition to the branding and sponsorship-related activities of a traditional publisher, we will be broadening Inc.’svalue proposition to marketers to include lead-generation, lead-nurturing and retention programs,” LaPointe said. “The acquisition of Trendline is a part of that effort.”
During the 1990s, LaPointe was president of Inc. Business Resources, a division he launched to develop nonmagazine products and services for small-business owners and the marketers that wanted to reach them, including conferences and seminars, book publishing, consulting and custom publishing. LaPointe was also CEO of Inc.com.
After Gruner+Jahr Publishing USA purchased Inc. from its founder and majority owner, Bernard Goldhirst, in 2000, the magazine went back to focusing largely on traditional advertising and less on nonmagazine businesses, LaPointe said. Five years later, Gruner+Jahr Publishing USA A was dissolved, and Inc. and Fast Company were purchased by Joe Mansueto, principal owner of Morningstar, who folded the two into a new media company, Mansueto Ventures.
In April, Mansueto Ventures was rocked by the sudden departure of CEO John Koten, who has not been replaced. “We formed an executive committee that’s now running the company,” LaPointe said. “It includes Bob Safian, who is editor in chief of Fast Company; Mark Rosenburg, CFO of Mansueto Ventures; Jane Berentson, editor in chief of Inc. and myself. Each of us reports to Joe Mansueto individually, as does the executive committee as a collective body.”
The current business model for Inc.com is almost exclusively advertising driven, but that will change, LaPointe said. “There’s definitely a business model that can be built around three tiers of content. At one level, it’s totally free. At the next level, registration will be required. The third level will require a purchase.” He added that he doesn’t foresee customers paying for something like a single article; rather, paid content will include e-books, research reports, software, industry analysis and other data products.
“It would be premature to articulate a real plan right now for Inc.com,” LaPointe said. “We are digging in and doing competitive analyses to find where the opportunities are and what we should do, but the objective is to drive transactions through Inc.com by providing a broader suite of services to business owners.”