Karen Jones of Jones Publishing
Jones Publishing founder Karen Jones has always seen the value of protecting the IP of her business as she tells Bryce Wilcock.
Former publisher and now editor-in-chief Karen Jones has re-invented herself as a tech entrepreneur since launching Citywealth magazine and its parent company, Jones Publishing, back in 2005.
Having worked for a number of titles across London including The Times and Sunday Times, Jones worked her way from a birth, marriages and death journalist all the way up to a publisher helping bring a number of new start-up titles to market.
However, after leading a failed management buyout (MBO) bid for a legal publication back in 2005, she took the brave step of setting up her own publishing company with the launch of Citywealth.
“Prior to joining Citywealth I spent 10 years at News International, across different departments,” she adds. “I then went on to work for a number of start-up financial publications in the City such as the Financial News.
“My reason for the change was that I had been working for other people doing the same thing again and again, launching start-ups and getting them on their feet. I was making a lot of money for other people and not myself and so I decided to take a career break for a year, going from Alaska to Argentina to think about the next move.
“Then, on my return, I led a MBO of another publishing company and I had advisors who were keen to get the deal done, but it just wasn’t to be. So, armed with £60,000 from a few credit cards, I launched Citywealth and here we are today.”
The online magazine started life as a specialist title focused purely on wealth management, but, like most successful entrepreneurs, Jones was never going to settle for just being “another magazine”, she wanted to create a brand with a legacy that would go on to become a publishing powerhouse.
“There are now four parts to our business, the first of which is editorial. We have a print directory of 200 pages that is published yearly and has a list of recommendations of people in the industry. We also have a large website and a weekly email newsletter that features topical news from anywhere from divorce to private equity for the ultra-high net worth market.
“Secondly, we have our own subscription networking clubs. For example, we’re currently mentoring youngsters across the City who are interested in wealth management to network and are helping them make connections.
“The third part to our business is our awards ceremonies and events. We have five award ceremonies that have their own online voting processes, helping people nominate and judge the best people in the industry.
“Finally, we have recently built up a huge interactive website that has 2,500 pages, almost like a TripAdvisor, where clients can come on and star rate and leave comments about wealth managers and advisors in the industry. This was a new development in July 2017 and one that we are extremely excited about because it brings new sources of revenue like biography upgrades.”
Jones’ work in the City and her determination to make Citywealth a success hasn’t just been noticed by her industry peers, either. In April 2016, she was granted Freedom of the City of London, an ancient tradition going back to the 13th century, closely associated with membership of the City livery companies.
The freedom of the City was originally created to grant certain privileges to citizens who weren’t the property of feudal lords and were granted permission to practice their trade and own land. Though the practical reasons to obtain freedom of The City are no longer relevant, gaining admittance remains a unique part of London’s history and is an honour to be accepted.
This accolade, coupled with countless industry awards, is testament to how much the company has grown. Citywealth now boasts an annual turnover of almost £1m, hosts around 30 events every year and employs eight members of staff in London. So, what is this success down to? Well, unlike most other businesses in their early years, Jones placed a heavy focus on the firm’s intellectual property (IP) from day one.
“We have lots of trademarks. In fact, we have five brand names across the business. For example, as well as Citywealth, we also have brand names such as Powerwomen that we protect.
“This means we can stop other people from launching similar titles and our lawyers are able to let us know if people try to do something similar. “It has helped us tremendously in terms of brand recognition and has enabled us to create an attractive brand that people really buy into across the board.
“It means people can come into the business through many different touchpoints but our aim is to feed them across five or six of them and generate money from all avenues. People understand what we’re doing, we look after them and we add value to their business.
“We’ve been focused on protecting our IP since year one. Our design, web and marketing agencies have always told us to protect our brand and digital assets.
“We’ve also bought around 30 different website addresses just to protect anyone launching anything even remotely similar to any of our brand names online. It’s all about looking at what the threats could be to our business and ensuring we minimise them.”
The afore mentioned Powerwomen brand is a great example of this in motion. The annual Powerwomen Awards recognise individuals and companies who maximise the potential of women in wealth and has its own annual ranking index.
Jones and the team at Citywealth also host their own Powerwomen networking clubs where women from across the sector come together to hear from guest speakers and discuss best practice.
It’s this ability to engage with new audiences and make the most of its IP that has helped Jones Publishing finish first for the brand and reputation IP asset class in the IP100 over the past two years.
Jones says: “IP is a saleable asset. So, if anyone was to buy the Jones Publishing brand, then they would also buy everything else that comes with it.
“It also means our mindset is one of ensuring that when we move forward we don’t run into train crashes, we have got everything protected and have lawyers on it all of the time.
“We can move forward with a kind of surety that you’re not going to hit any bumps or people saying ‘oh look we’ve copied you’ or anything like that, we’ve understood what we’re doing all along the way. It provides us with a safety mechanism to move forward with confidence. It’s a growing asset.
“Another thing that has proven beneficial to us has been our focus on social media. We saw that there had been a massive shift towards social media some time ago in our sector and a lot of communication has moved from email to platforms such as LinkedIn.
“We’ve now hired a separate company who manage our profile and reputation constantly on social media and we have strategy meetings with them month-on-month to ensure all of our products are pushed out through Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin to ensure we’re maximising the recognition of our brands.”
Jones was inspired to apply for the IP100 because of the heavy focus the company had placed on IP since its inception. She explains: “It’s a topic that we’re interested in, IP and social media are important areas for us in the media but many businesses seem to underestimate them.
“Finishing top for brand and reputation has been brilliant for us. It’s great for team morale and is a strong message for us to get out into the industry. We know that when you’re involved in financial services, the whole industry has a huge understanding of the benefits IP and brand has and it allows us to be a thought leader on the topic.”
So, what’s next for the company? Jones concludes: “We’re going to have exponential growth. As the market changes, pace is gathering. The rate of growth has maybe been incremental over the past 10 or so years but I think that we’ll grow much faster as the market changes and the ability to reach people and take their payments becomes easier.
“The world is becoming smaller and we’re gaining more access than ever to global markets. The speed of possibility and growth is on our side. In terms of IP, it’s absolutely essential that we protect everything so we don’t fall foul of other businesses.”
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