Internet in Business mentor Jakob Nielsen responds to the following question from an user:

I have a keen interest in small-business opportunities on the Web for e-zines and e-publishing in general. provides interesting stories about the subject, but I do not understand one aspect: What kind of software is available to establish an e-publishing business?

  1. I need to publish a weekly newsletter to paying subscribers.
  2. I need to sell them downloadable material (e-books and e-articles).
  3. I need a Web site on which to put free information.
  4. I need to be able to e-tail related material.
  5. I need a reliable system to manage sales and documents.

Is it possible to buy standardized software on which you canbuild your own business of the kind I describe?

Nielsen responds: I don't know of any standardized software that will support right out of the box the type of Web publishing endeavor you describe. Each of the five components you describe would be fairly easy to do, anda competent e-business developer should be able to integrate a solution for you that mainly relies on existing building blocks. Items 3, 4, and 5 are fairly common these days, although it is rare tohave sales automation software well integrated with a Web site.

The weekly newsletter could be managed through one of the many newsletter services, with the subscription payment handled as a traditionale-commerce transaction that is paid by credit card. Downloadable material for sale can also be handled as an e-commerce transaction, although you may have to modify the system to offer fulfillment through a download rather than the shipment of a physical good. You should look at electronic software distribution (ESD) services because, in my opinion, they arecurrently the most advanced in the area of processing payments for downloads. (Whether the userdownloads software or articles makes no difference.)

Instead of making subscriptions the only way for customers to buy your content, I recommend that you also allow customers to buy individual articles. You may want to consider micropayments because they will encourage browsing and immediate gratification and thus attract new customers. 1ClickCharge is a promising micropayment scheme that is supposed to launch relatively soon and is fairly easy to install on your server. Other micropayment schemes are already operational but, in myopinion, require a lot of work to install.

I would also encourage you to look into an affiliate program to reward other Web sites for sending you business. If youpublish valuable information, other sites in the same field should recommend that their readers buy appropriate content from you. You can encourage them to do so by offering a referral fee. Commission Junction hasa fairly easy way of adding an affiliate program to your site.

Copyright © 2000