Nov 23, 2021 - Economy & Business

The pandemic put STAT on the map

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

STAT had a banner year in 2020, and executives say they expect continued growth for the foreseeable future.

Why it matters: "I've never for a moment worried about a post-pandemic dip because the past two years catapulted us into a whole new league in terms of readership, reach and our brand identity," said STAT co-founder and executive editor Rick Berke. "There's no turning back from what we were pre-pandemic."

Details: "From 2020 to 2021, our revenue has soared 40 percent, exceeding our projections: specifically, subscription revenue is up 24 percent; advertising, 51 percent, and events, 79 percent," Berke said in a memo to staff.

  • The company has been profitable for some time, and STAT chief business officer Angus Macaulay says it's "expecting to be profitable next year" as well.
  • By year-end, the company will have around 80 employees, up from about 50 at the end of 2020. The company plans to continue hiring next year.
  • The company has doubled its engineering and product teams.

STAT's business relies on three main revenue streams: subscriptions, advertising and events. While all three sectors have expanded, events — even virtually — have shown the biggest growth.

  • "Our plan next year is to go back to in-person events," Macaulay said, barring any pandemic issues. STAT hosts three major summits each year that focus on specialized topics like health tech and scientific discovery. Tickets go for about $300 per person.
  • On the subscription front, Berke says, "We're putting more and more behind the paywall and it's paid off." STAT was one of the first media companies in the U.S. to drop its paywall for COVID-19 coverage last year.
  • "Our ad business is soaring, but if we lost it tomorrow, we'd still have a huge financial foundation," Berke said. The company relies on donations and philanthropic support to underwrite key features and projects.

STAT began experimenting with a few new businesses this year.

  • It soft launched STAT Trials Pulse — a real-time clinical trial data and trends product with machine learning company Applied XL — earlier this year.
  • It has hired a head of community to build programs that connect readers and subscribers.
  • STAT also launched its second podcast and says it has a third on the way about the intersection of race and science. Its documentary film about prosthetics is being broadcast on Nova, a science television program produced by WGBH in Boston.

The big picture: Most news media companies have seen traffic dwindle this year in response to a new presidency and less news interest in COVID-19.

  • But Berke says STAT's audience continues to grow because it's built up a reputation for authoritative coverage around all health and science stories.
  • "We don't hang our hat solely on COVID coverage and we never have," Berke says, citing new projects tracking underlying racial inequities in health and medicine and coverage of the FDA’s decision to approve the first new treatment for Alzheimer’s.
  • One of the company's biggest investigations this year uncovered ways Epic, the country's largest electronic health records vendor, was selling algorithms to hospitals that delivered inaccurate information.
  • "Our coverage this year has proven that we're not a one-trick pony," he said. One example: STAT last month launched a beat specifically on cancer.

What to watch: STAT's initial seed funding came from owners John Henry and Linda Pizzuti Henry in 2015. The couple also owns The Boston Globe. Linda serves as chief executive of Boston Globe Media Partners.

  • "I think Linda has made no secret that she sees STAT as a model for other potential niche publications for the overall Boston Globe Media," Berke said.
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