Talk about being way ahead of a curve.
While newsletter businesses have become trendy in the last few years, Alan Woinski and his wife Kim Santangelo-Woinski launched a subscription-based newsletter nearly three decades ago — and grew the publication until they sold it in 2021.
It started 30 years ago, when Woinski, a hotel and casino analyst, launched The Gaming Industry Weekly Report, a newsletter about gambling, shortly followed by a second newsletter, the Gaming Industry Daily Report.
The newsletters were so successful that subscribers from HVS International, a global hospitality consulting firm, asked Woinski to write a daily newsletter about the hotel industry.
So in 1995, Woinski obliged, bringing on his wife, Santangelo-Woinski, and with no outside investment, they began writing the The Daily Lodging Report (TDLR). Even back then, it was sent electronically, via email. Over the years, consumer trends have led to big shifts in the industry, giving the Woinskis plenty to write about.
How The Daily Lodging Report achieved 90% renewal rates
While pioneers are often overtaken by newcomers, TDLR has achieved high renewal rates throughout the years. “Our renewal rate has always been in the 90% range,” Woinski said. “We continued growing every year, [bringing in] people in corporate subscriptions moving to another company that did not have a subscription or starting their own companies.”
Woinski and his wife produced separate TDLR newsletters for North America and Asia Pacific, with contacts at HVS International helping the couple attract new subscribers through their own mailings and database.
What sets the reports apart from competitors, Woinski said, is its ease of use, providing short summaries of daily financial news, openings, financing, re-financing, appointments, changes and new products. “Instead of getting a clipping service with a bunch of links that takes you an hour to get through,” Woinski said, “The Daily Lodging Report breaks it down into a paragraph for each story.”
By 2020, the pair were producing two hotel newsletters and three casino gaming newsletters – with only one employee, their son, Alex Woinski. The couple began to consider selling to reduce their workload and grow TDLR. “We felt the Daily Lodging Report could expand and grow, and we did not think we could do that without greatly growing the company’s staff,” Woinski said. “We recently moved to Florida and are planning to eventually retire.”
When a buyer came knocking for The Daily Lodging Report
During the pandemic, they worked with subscribers to reduce rates for those most impacted, he said, which led to a rise in subscriptions, despite industry closures.
One of those new subscribers was Rafat Ali, founder of travel industry platform Skift, which provides information and intelligence about the future of travel. Woinski noticed, and he had an inkling Ali might be checking out the newsletter for a possible acquisition. So Woinski wasn’t surprised when Ali approached them. Impressed with what Skift was building, the couple met Ali and a few of the company’s other executives. While the pandemic put the brakes on a sale, the two sides kept in touch.
Talks resumed in 2021, and it wasn’t long, Woinski said, before the two reached a deal. At the time of sale, TDLR had revenue of under $1 million from nearly 2,600 subscribers (from both regions), though Woinski believes the actual number of readers was much higher. “We have a large corporate subscription base, and many of those we send to one email address and the customer distributes internally to their departments or company wide. I actually believe the readership is more than 5,000,” Woinski explained.
The subscription to the North America publication costs $450 annually — the same price as when they sold the company, Woinski said. The original price in 1995 was $295, though the newsletter was shorter then.
In Ali’s announcement of the deal on Skift’s site, he quoted Geoff Ballotti, CEO of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts: “Not a day has gone by in the past 20+ years of my career where I haven’t read every word of Daily Lodging Report, as have just about everyone in my world I talk to.”
Woinski and Santangelo-Woinski sold both The Daily Lodging Report newsletters to Skift for six figures and agreed to continue producing TDLR daily.
“My wife and I have more free time on our hands, Skift has been growing the Daily Lodging Report’s subscription base and sales, and the content has been able to remain exactly what made the report the most read hotel newsletter in the world,” he said.
Crucial to the decision, Woinski said, was doing his homework about the buyer. “I really liked what they were doing. If you plan on remaining with the buyer, make sure it is with people you respect and like. ”
The couple retains full ownership over the Gaming Industry Daily Report, Gaming Industry Weekly Report and InstaGamingGram publications.