Cannabiz co-founder and chief growth officer Martin Lane reflects on our first 12 months reporting on the industry, and what the next year has in store.

It hardly seems possible, but it’s exactly 12 months since we launched Cannabiz on an unsuspecting cannabis industry.

Cannabiz co-founder and chief growth officer Martin Lane

We had heaps of experience in B2B publishing, PR, marketing and events and a determination to shine a light on opportunities that would help a burgeoning new sector grow even faster.

We were also in the middle of our first – and, we naively assumed – only Covid lockdown. 

It’s fair to say a lot has happened since then, not all of it positive for the industry.

While the TGA down-scheduled CBD and fired the starting pistol for a race to get over-the-counter CBD into Australian pharmacies, New Zealand spurned the opportunity to make recreational cannabis legal for adults aged 20 and over.

Campaigns to change drug-driving laws and give military veterans access to subsidised medicine gained momentum, but the Faculty of Pain Medicine told GPs not to prescribe cannabis products for chronic non-cancer pain unless part of a registered clinical trial.

The TGA made it slightly easier for Authorised Prescribers to do their job and secure the best treatment available for their patients, but it fell to Cannabiz to explain it clearly to the industry. 

And most importantly, while we’ve seen patient numbers double, a combination of poorly-educated GPs, red tape and high prices are still forcing far too many to access their much-needed medicine via the black market. That’s something we all want to see change.

So, we have had plenty to write about, and campaign on. Always a good indication that a sector is on the way up.

There was hardly a week went by when some company or other wasn’t making an announcement about an export deal, clinical trial or capital raise. 

Gina Rinehart: investment in Little Green Pharma felt like a defining moment for the industry

While most of those stayed within the trade and financial press, one that did cut through was news that Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting had taken a 10% stake in Little Green Pharma with a A$15 million investment.

That felt like a defining moment for the industry – the point where WA’s mining boom was replaced by the green rush.

So what about us? Were we right to believe the industry wanted our mix of industry analysis and unique reporting? And crucially, that it would support us commercially in delivering it?

From an editorial point of view, we’ve had fantastic support, with Google Analytics reporting 11,514 unique users per month.

The bulk of our audience are c-suite/senior executives (47%) and industry professionals (44%), with healthcare professionals making up 5% and patients and carers contributing the remaining 4%.

And most pleasingly, you’ve contacted us with story ideas, taken the time to explain the complexities of regulation to our reporters, and generally welcomed us into the industry. 

When we launched, our plan was to keep Cannabiz ad free, which meant part of our commercial strategy was to ask our readers to pay a small fee for the exclusive content we produce.

For that to work, we needed to create a compelling vision that harnessed the excitement of the industry and put members at the centre of our thinking. We also needed to hire the best thinkers in the Australian cannabis industry, so it was a major milestone when editor-at-large Rhys Cohen joined the team in September 2020.

And as you may have read, this week we welcomed PhD student Hannah Adler, whose research focuses on the ‘mediatisation’ of medicinal cannabis in Australia, and the impact this has on both the medical community and patients. We can’t wait to read her insights on Cannabiz.

Together with chief correspondent Steve Jones, that’s a pretty formidable writing team.

And in May, we launched our Premium content offering, creating three membership tiers:  

  • Essentials (free), for the ‘canna-curious’, including limited access to our newsletter, aggregated industry news and our podcast.
  • Premium (paid), for the legal cannabis professional, including all Essentials benefits plus unlimited access to exclusive content and opinion pieces, breaking news alerts, market intelligence reports and sector analysis, members-only webinars and events, and the opportunity to participate in community discussions via the comment thread.
  • The Green List, an invitation-only community for the pioneering legal cannabis business giving members influence and connection via exclusive executive networking, tailored research, sponsored content, bespoke events and business and marketing consultancy.  

Measuring our success against that plan, we have 1,604 subscribers across the three tiers, with around 50 new members signing up each week.

If you’d like to join them, we’re offering a birthday discount to reduce the price of Cannabiz Premium membership by $50. Go to the Join page within the next seven days, enter the code firstbirthday into the booking engine, and access your saving. 

We’ve also recently added a bespoke consultancy offering. If you’d like to hear more about that, please do send us an email.

What does all that mean? It means we have enough money in the bank to keep the lights on, but we don’t have a sustainable business — yet.

Cannabiz revealed younger men are driving demand for flower at its inaugural Premium members-only webinar

And from a personal point of view, it means I’m spending more time on the news desk than I would like, and not enough building industry contacts and growing the commercial side of the business.

That said, we have hit the targets we set ourselves back in July 2020, built a great team, an engaged audience and a sustainable revenue stream. 

We achieved an average open rate of 34% and an average click through rate of 35% for our newsletter in June, far above publishing industry averages.

We also ran our first Premium members-only webinar last month, with 70% of eligible members taking part.

Looking forward to the year ahead, 2022 feels like it might be the year when a company finally clears the TGA’s regulatory hurdles to get a CBD product approved for sale over the counter.

And with an election in the offing, there’s an opportunity for politicians sympathetic to the industry’s cause to get their voices heard by the wider electorate.

And we hope to see a return to live events, which will give us the opportunity to meet more of you face-to-face. 

That’s a second birthday present we are really looking forward to.

Prior to launching Cannabiz, Martin was co-founder and CEO of Asia-Pac’s leading B2B media and marketing information brand Mumbrella, overseeing its sale to Diversified Communications in 2017. A journalist...