Starting a Business

A Journalist's Melting Pot

Helium helps online writers' voices be heard above the noise.
2 min read

This story appears in the June 2009 issue of Start Up. Subscribe »

Who: Mark Ranalli of
What: Online writing and publishing community
Where: Andover, Mass.
When: Started in 2006
Startup costs: more than $10 million

While it's easy for writers to get their voices heard by publishing their work on blogs or other forums, Mark Ranalli realized that user-generated content is just as easily lost in the chaos of the web. "The internet has been flooded with unfiltered content," Ranalli says. "The end result is analogous to a crowded room of people shouting at each other. Nobody can be heard."

In 2009, an estimated 96.6 million U.S. internet users will read a blog at least once per month. By 2013, that number is expected to reach 128.2 million-which accounts for 58 percent of all U.S. internet users.
(Source: eMarketer)
To solve the problem, Ranalli launched to give writers a platform for publishing articles on topics ranging from business to parenting. What gives Helium its edge is the quality of content, which is organized by topic and ranked by both peer review and comparisons to similar articles. Ranalli, 43, says this double evaluation allows the best content to rise to the top and give exposure to good writers.

Even in a down economy, Helium, which shares its revenue with its 150,000 writers, has managed to grow: The site received more than 3 million hits in October 2008, up from 1 million the year before. Ranalli says much of his success in the downturn is due to the fact that many publishers are turning to Helium for less expensive custom content, while writers are looking to make extra money by contributing to the site. With many people now writing and reading about current hot topics like investment strategies and politics, the site expects to hit sales of more than $1 million in 2009.

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