Product 04 Feb, 2019

Content Monetization Strategies for Digital Publisher

Technology geek! Domain expert in digital publishing and exploring AI to empower the publishing industry for better good!

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Digital publishing is as old as internet. Like any other technology, digital publishing too has been evolving unceasingly.

One of the main reasons for its persistent growth is commercial internet. It has led to digital revolution across verticals like,

  • Entertainment

  • Movies

  • Music

  • Television

  • Books

  • Gaming

  • News

Commercial Internet

Faster and easier delivery of content would not have been possible without commercial internet. This has redefined traditional publishing business models and has created many challenges to advertisers.

If we look back, let’s say in the past two decades, publishers had monetized their content in either of the two ways:

  1. Directly selling content to consumer

  2. Making content freely available online while placing ads on their website/new site/blogs to achieve returns

Taking any one of the approach or a mix of both depends on variables like,

  • Market segment – niche in which the publisher operates

  • Technology - infrastructure on which the online business is running. More specifically, technology behind content management and e-commerce systems.

  • Intellectual Property – it includes copyright, patent and trademark. General conservatism and the need to protect content online.

Publishers were able to churn out revenue from the above model on two constant variables:

  1. They had exclusivity over the content and

  2. There was no external disruptive competition

However, the pattern changed during the last decade. Traditional digital content monetization approaches came under socio-economic threat.

Digital Content Monetization Under Threat

During the economic recession of 2008-2009, US newspaper industry lost $7.5 billion in advertising revenues, including $3.1 billion in online space.  

Online magazine verticals too suffered advertising jolt. After, Google started eating into their pie of online advertising.

Aggregators provide everything directly to the table for users. Users find it easier to scan through organized and easily accessible content. Thus, aggregators are the most desirable alternative for advertisers.

Combined advertising revenue of three magazine companies almost equals to approximately US $20 billion as Google alone does on its own.

According to Zenith, Google is the largest media owner attracting $79.4 billion in advertising revenue in 2016. That is three times more than Facebook, which attracted $26.9 billion.

The publishing sector, however, is at a position where it is compelled to look for new monetization models for its very survival.

Existing Tools for Monetization Strategies

Technology has made audience much more powerful than a decade ago. Consumers now are more tech savvy. Effortlessly they are able to maneuver through sophisticated websites with complex business models.

Gaming and music industries are practical examples at hand. These two segments have witnessed an exponential growth within the past ten years. Content publishers can take them as case studies.  

Publishers can increase the overall success of online content creation and monetization strategies, by tools and tech modules such as:

  • Content management system - creating and modifying digital content that can seamlessly go cross devices

  • Digital asset management - for sorting out, storing and retrieving rich media.

  • Content authentication – it ensures the integrity of the shared content and identifies with its (content) creator.

  • Digital rights management – for preventing unofficial redistribution of digital media. And restricting the means by which consumers can copy content they've purchased.

  • User behavior and other metrics – analytics for measuring media usage and user behavior.

Existing Game Plan for Monetization Strategies

Database itself is not sufficient to churn revenue. Chunks of information do not get any work done. There has to be a model targeting revenue as the result. Here are some of the successfully employed monetization strategies:

  1. Paid content: Certain media houses especially newspapers follow this model. As per this, consumers are charged for accessing content.  

Newspapers create their digital content, form and look is same as that of its print counterpart. Since, the digital edition is available across devices, this model has seen some success in getting subscribers to pay.

The New York Times is given credit for pioneering this approach. Last year, the media company reported $24 Million Profit. Subscription revenues alone accounted for nearly two-thirds of the company’s revenues.

  1. Content only for registered users and subscribers: Financial Times offers eight news articles per month and news alerts access for ‘free registered users’.

However, paid subscribers get access to unlimited content. They also get additional benefits like ePaper, mobile and iPad access.

  1. Micro-payments: This model was started by the Wall Street Journal. They introduced micro-payments for single articles. And premium subscriptions to their journals. They charge readers for only what they read.

  2. Paywall: This model works best with digital magazine businesses with no online advertising. With this method, access is restricted to users who have paid to subscribe to the site or the online magazine.

Atlantic Media, National Geographic and Condé Nast are working on revenue models that offer their print content with online benefits like:

  • Research

  • Special access to events

  • Product sales

The coming of tablets or notebook computers enabled magazine publishers to turn the tables in a surprising way.

Rich color screen, interactivity and portability of devices made it ideal for publishers to sell their content in the form of online magazines. And they have met it with great success as consumers are increasingly using tablets as device of choice for reading content.

  1. Subscription Driven Business Model: Like magazine publishers, B2B publishers or the business information services too works on the subscription driven business model.

However, a B2B publisher has different set of offerings. The services other than content include:

  • Data sets: It is a collection of numbers or values that are related to a particular subject. For example, IMDb is a digital database of information related to movies, TV serials, home videos, video games, internet streams and related stuff.

  • Metrics: It includes statistical data for website monitoring. And user behavior analytics.

  • Custom reports: Report where we select one variable to plot against the other. For instance, we select the dimensions (City and Browser) along with metrics (Sessions, Pageviews, and Bounce Rate). And decide how they should be displayed.  

  • Statistics: It means anything that has to do with digits such as surveys, polls and trends.

  • Infographics: They are graphic visual representations of data or information. The aim of which is to present information quickly and clearly.

  • Realtime information: Information that is immediately delivered after collecting certain data. It generally works with transactions.

Business Model Opportunities

Currently, we are experiencing an incessant digital transformation in the industry. Consumers are looking for more. They are not satisfied with a single slice of information.

Online information needs to be coupled with:

  • Data

  • Research

  • Support and

  • Analysis tools

Business model does not work in isolation alone. LexisNexis Group, for example, is integrating social networking tool.

They are incorporating focused online communities and user generated content sites into their business model. This has helped them in lead generation as well as content development.

Hence, more and more business models are revolving around user-generated communities. Publishing organizations are working towards subscription and pricing their models around the user-generated segment.

Their aim primarily is to focus on increasing revenues from existing clients than expanding their advertising and customer base.

Viable Business Models for Digital Publisher

Other than these, digital publishers can combine various other alternatives of monetization into viable business models, while keeping in mind some of the following key considerations:

  1. Employ a Pay Wall: Publishers can come up with a pay wall option where access is granted only to paying customers.

However, initial offerings could be made free of charge, let’s say for a month in case of service providers and free access to first 5-8 articles in case of content publisher.

  1. Tiered Access offerings: This will allow users to choose from basic wallet option to progressively increasing price points to receive the product.

Publishers, for instance, can start with free sample distribution on first registration and subscription. This can gradually converge to higher levels of access when customers pay more.

  1. Subscriptions and Micropayments: Subscription and micropayment models can exist simultaneously to segment consumers based on their preferences. Both are steady stream of revenue since subscription involves long-term commitment from subscribers.

  2. Premium Content: Publishers may come up with exclusive content to special audience. Content could be in form of listicles or compilations. Targeting devices on which publisher’s analytics show wider audience.

  3. Tools and APIs: Publishers can invest some time in devising their content availability via APIs while retaining control.

  4. Archive Access: Old issues or archived content is made available for particular segment of audience, especially for the subscribers.

  5. Cross Platform Access: Consumers want everything cross devices. They use wide variety of platforms to access the internet.

Magazine publishers had huge success when they targeted their content across tablets. So the takeaway is, giving seamless experience across a variety of platforms and devices.

To monetize content, single business strategy is not enough. The basic idea is to experiment with various models in combination and persistently grow. 


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