From the Minneapolis City Pages: “Westlaw rises to legal publishing fame by selling free information,” by Erin Carlyle.
West makes its money by selling free, public information — specifically, court documents — to lawyers. On this simple model, the company raked in $3.5 billion in revenue last year, placing it on a par, sales-wise, with retail giant Abercrombie and Fitch. But its operating profit margin really impresses: At a whopping 32.1 percent, West outpaces that of tech giants like Google (19.4 percent), Amazon (3.4 percent), and eBay (20.8 percent). Westlaw excels at one simple task: saving lawyers time by making legal information more readily accessible. The company charges a firm of six to ten lawyers as much as $30,000 a year to access its state and federal databases. But since attorneys’ time is worth a lot of money, the service pays for itself. After all, the more work they can do, the more money they can make.
How did it do this? According to the story, by following these eight rules:
Rule 1: Find a niche with growth potential
Rule 2: Organize information to make it useful
Rule 3: The internet is a distribution channel — not a product
Rule 4: Turn words into math
Rule 5: Separate the signal from the noise
Rule 6: Computers can’t do everything
Rule 7: Treat content like patented material
Rule 8: Print’s not dead, it just needs online help