There’s a dominant theme among the publishing industry right now, from major, household-name publishers to regional and local papers: the need to diversify revenue streams.
It’s an especially hot topic at publishing industry events, including the Digiday Publishing Summit I attended recently. There was palpable unease from many publishers after a year defined by platform changes that have drastically affected their revenue streams and overall business models.
Instead of relying entirely on advertising revenue and the Facebook-Google duopoly, brands in the publishing industry are exploring how to bolster readership earnings.
Discussion around these potential subscriber-based revenue streams took many forms, but four main types appear to dominate the conversation among leaders at these brands:
- Membership models
- Premium content
If publishers are to survive, diversification of their revenue streams will be essential moving forward.
With Little Things and Render Media both serving as stark reminders of the fate that awaits those who rely too heavily on platforms and digital advertising revenue, reader revenue is a particularly interesting solution — one that can prove fruitful, with the right data strategy in place.
Three questions to ask about new reader revenue streams
It’s clear reader revenue can be impactful. What’s less clear to many publishing professionals such as yourself is how to make this shift to potentially lucrative new revenue streams for their brands.
But we’re here to help. Below are three questions to ask yourself as you discuss reader revenue:
1. “Which reader revenue product(s) would work best for me?”
Let your brand and content guide you. Find what feels the most natural based on your particular media business and niche audience. In short, a reader-focused revenue stream should an extension of what you’re already doing, not a replacement for existing means of securing new subscribers.
For instance, after evaluating user behaviors on your digital properties, you may come to the conclusion a premium content offering is a better fit than a metered paywall. That’s entirely up to you and your team to decide after spending some time combing over customer and audience data.
2. “How can I support this revenue stream for the business?”
Have a person or entire team who is willing to take point on growing reader revenue. Dedicating personnel whose sole (or primary) focus is to build and expand upon new publishing revenue models may seem like a drastic or unnecessary measure, but in the long run, it could prove wildly fruitful.
Managing and growing this new relationship with members of your readership base might require new marketing technology investments as well. Thus, new teams — and possibly even new positions within the company — would have to align with whatever new martech you onboard.
3. “How can I use data to fuel my reader revenue program?”
The various ways individual readers engage with your content provides a wealth of first-party data that can help you test, learn, and optimize your program and, in turn, get the most out of your burgeoning revenue stream: net-new subscribers, higher retention rates, and, overall, greater profits.
The key is to collect all of this rich data at the individual reader level. Customer segments based on a combination of reader attributes, preferences, and behaviors, then deliver relevant and engaging experiences across all touch points (e.g., real-time, on-site marketing messaging).
For example, you might collect behavioral data such as activity frequency to identify your most loyal readers, and then target them with personalized messaging for premium content offers based on each of their content preferences.
This sort of owned data can also dictate things like your pricing model. For instance, you test new subscription fees to see if you’re able to maintain recurring revenue from your readers, even with a higher price tag for your content.
Experimenting with revenue streams a must for publishers
As is the case with testing for all organizations today, you need to understand what the problem is (in other words, what positive an experiment aims to solve for) and determine if the results are successful.
If you find a more concerted focus on readers does lead to another viable source of revenue, problem (mostly) solved. Continue to refine your segmentation, and the approach will only improve in time.
If it doesn’t, there are certainly other options media and publishing brands are turning to increasingly today to reinforce their bottom lines and overall marketing strategies — as our guide below details.