SpaceFlight Insider Launches Success in a Changing Online Market

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Rhian, senior editor and founder of Spaceflight Insider, an online journal covering the space industry. While space is his game, marketing is mine, and I found his unique approach to media marketing in a changing advertising environment quite novel. Read on to learn how he does it …

Spaceflight Insider, a relative newcomer to the space industry media scene, hit the ground running. While operating on a shoestring budget from a handful of supporters, the team got creative. By freely sharing high-quality content for almost a year, Spaceflight Insider has captured increased attention, and the publication’s focus on editorial integrity over advertising sales has lent credibility to the operation. Because Website traffic drives online success, directing visitors to the site became the team’s primary strategy, and the social-media savvy team got cranking.

“We are gaining new visitors everyday,” said Jason Rhian, senior editor and founder. “We’ve now get several hundred thousand unique visitors every month who are viewing our content, and that excites sponsors who gain visibility along with us.”

“We found early on that the traditional advertising model was dead, so we looked at how we could drive value for sponsors,” said Rhian. The team turned to novel revenue streams for an online publication. Instead of charging for direct advertising space, they bill for outside services, such as audio-visual production, newsletters, and photography stills that sponsors want for their own businesses. The sponsors pay for those specialty services, and in turn earn a spot on the SpaceFlight Insider website.

From the start, the revenue concept presented concerns for Rhian: He believes that as a journalistic outfit, Spaceflight Insider is obliged to remain unbiased, so the company is sometimes forced to decline posting otherwise interesting news and feature articles if the content could be viewed as promoting sponsors who sign up for services.

“Some outlets have abandoned their duty to stay unbiased and have knowingly entered into direct conflicts of interest,” Rhian said. “We have told our sponsors flat out that we will not violate core journalistic tenets to garner sales.”

Another challenge was the pricing itself. “To get off the ground, we started by charging about a tenth of the cost of what our services actually retailed for,” Rhian added. “While this pricing strategy took more time to build revenue, it helped us get in the game. It also gave us a chance to gain our footing and demonstrate what we could do.”

The company’s efforts have worked. “We now have a very pleasant relationship with, for example, Space Florida, Flexure Engineering, and the Florida International Business school, and other companies such as Space Shirts in Merritt Island, FL. We help get them what they want. If they need us to, we’ll go out and shoot stills and video for them, or assist with another project. We ask our sponsors to pay a reasonable flat rate for whichever media products they need. This approach has turned into a win-win for our sponsors and for us. We believe the Spaceflight Insider business model will prove profitable in both the short and long terms,” Rhian told me.

So my friend, you now know how Spaceflight Insider generates business in challenging times. The company discarded an age-old revenue model in favor of a new path. Are you inspired to think beyond the box, too? If so, let me know what you will do to shift the marketing odds in your favor. I look forward to hearing from you and will consider posting your success story here at, too. Keep me apprised of your news. Best of luck!


JASON RHIAN, FOUNDER AND SENIOR EDITOR OF SPACEFLIGHT INSIDER departed a career in law enforcement to pursue his dream of bringing the story of space exploration to the world.