The Story of TED: Publishing Company


TED Publishing Strategy

TED is one of the most popular websites in the world.

The site hosts tons of video content from the exclusive TED talks. These talks started back in the ’80s and continue to grow in popularity today. People pay a high price to attend each TED event. Attendees are searching for inspiration, innovation and entertainment.

Each TED talk is different. Some speakers have done multiple talks. Others are one hit wonders in the TED database.

Something that has always been consistent with TED and its online videos is the fact that each video has real value for a segment of people. This is one of the interesting aspects of TED that has made it a continuing success nearly 30 years after it was created.

Harvard Business Review recently did a short article highlighting the success of TED.

From TED Becomes a Publishing Platform:

TED — that’s short for Technology, Entertainment, and Design — was founded by Richard Saul Wurman in 1984 to gather together interesting people to give great talks about great ideas.


But real the story of TED is what happened next. A few years back, TED curator Chris Anderson started putting TED talks up on the net, free. He took a bet that TED would become more attractive as if its published works were widely exposed and shared than it would if they were locked down. That change turned the actual conference into a “premium” offering (where you could see the talks live and interact with participants) compared with TED on the web, which was free for all.

The business model for TED has proven to be successful. The organizer of the event wanted to reach as many people as possible. He realized not everyone could pay the fee to attend his event, but realized a large number of people could talk about his organization. This in turn (he hoped) would stir interest in the event and the sales would come.

The model is something your business can focus on as well. You might not be a publisher in the sense that you’re selling newspapers and magazines, but you can be a publisher in the sense that you use your blog (text, images, video, etc.) to bring interest from a large audience with the goal of selling your goods and services to a smaller audience.

The TED Publishing Strategy

The TED strategy is pretty common in today’s world, but it’s difficult for some businesses to adapt. It seems especially difficult for actual online publications to understand. It’s always frustrated me to see newspapers or magazines charging for their content while trying to sell advertising at the same time.

I get it. These folks have to make a living. In fact, I have no problem paying for premium content. I do pay for premium content. But it’s tough when your cross business models.

The most successful online publications are giving away their content for free while focusing on developing products and services to sell to a portion of their large audience. These businesses understand that they need to get eyeballs on their content. They want people to share their content and read their content and spread the word. This audience is still targeted, but not everyone is willing to shell out cash for premium content, services or goods.

But it only takes a small portion of a dedicated audience to make a profit.

TED does this with its business model.

Your business can do the same.

The goal with most business blogs is to attract an audience of people interested in your industry. You should realize that you’ll want to bring in an audience with your posts via search and social. From there you’ll want to convince people there is value in signing up for something like an email list.

From there the goal is to convert some of the audience into customers that purchase your goods and services.

The premium model has worked well in the past. It’s difficult because it can take time to work. It’s a long-term strategy and takes investment for it to work well. Content isn’t cheap. TED had to pay for the best speakers.

But with a good strategy it can be profitable.

And that’s what business is all about.

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