Media news site What’s New In Publishing has published a full update to its ‘50 ways to make media pay’ report, written by journalism lecturer and media commentator Damian Radcliffe. The 50 revenue options suggested in the report range from subscriptions and paywalls, to premium content, advertising and emerging opportunities.
It’s no secret that making money in media is not as easy as it used to be. And in recent years it’s been getting harder, from digital downsizing to the rise of the triopoly and COVID pressures, publishing can be a challenging business.
- Three years is a very long time in digital media and this report is a fully revised and updated version of the original “50 ways” report published by What’s New In Publishing in 2018 – 2019. Like its predecessor, version two sets out to introduce publishers to the revenue options their contemporaries around the world are developing.
- The opening chapter focuses on subscriptions, citing the ‘pivot’ to reader revenue that began before COVID-19 struck, but that was supercharged by the pressures the pandemic brought to the advertising markets. Financial services firm UBS projects the “subscription economy” will grow at an average annual growth rate of 18%, making it, “one of the fastest growing industries globally.”
- Looking at subscription models, the report runs through platform specific subs, discounting and trials, bundling and pay-as-you-go models. It also considers ways to reduce churn, from improved onboarding processes to targeted retention efforts driven by specific engagement metrics.
Paywalls and advertising
- An important subscription development tool, the paywall section of the report looks at the mechanisms publishers can use to convince readers to pay for content. The blunt instrument of hard paywalls is joined by a variety of paywall solutions that flex according to content type, audience profile and even geography. The overall message, as stated by John Wilpers, is that:
It’s amazing to think that in an era of increasing personalization we ever thought a one-size-fits-all paywall would work.
- Despite the rise of reader revenue models, the report’s advertising chapter highlights the growth in the global advertising market – up 14% and by $78 billion according to MAGNA. Money-making ad formats listed range from direct to network sells, programmatic, native and recommendation engine placements. It also highlights a welcome slowing in the growth of ad blocking.
Content and emerging opportunities
- Premium content plays mentioned in the report include platform partnerships, paid-for newsletters and podcasts. One developing area for content revenue generation is obituaries, once a big income stream for newspapers but now almost exclusively online. Partnering with obituary hubs like legacy.com is a popular tactic for local newspapers in the US.
- Content-driven brand extensions also feature, from events to ebooks. Ecommerce is flagged as a major growth area, citing the impacts of COVID acceleration as a major driver. Online learning, subscriptions boxes and affiliate revenues are all potential ecommerce tactics.
- New products and markets have always been an important revenue bolster for publishers. Fresh income can be developed digitally from brand referral and lead generation programmes to quirky NFT plays. Memberships and voluntary contributions are also increasingly popular as the tech to administer programmes and collect payments becomes more accessible.