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 like the Digiday Publishing Summit.
There was palpable unease from 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 companies: paywalls, membership models, events, and premium content.
If publishers are to survive, diversification of their revenue streams will be essential.
With Little Things and Render Media serving as stark reminders of the fate that awaits those who rely too heavily on platforms and digital ad revenue, reader revenue is a particularly interesting solution. One that can prove fruitful, with the right data strategy.
3 questions to ask when exploring new revenue streams for your publishing brand
It’s clear reader revenue can be impactful. What’s less clear to many publishing professionals is how to make this shift to potentially lucrative new revenue streams for their brands.
Below are three questions to ask yourself as you discuss reader revenue.
1) Which reader revenue product(s) is best for me?
Let your publishing organization 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 conclude a premium content offering is a better fit than a metered paywall.
It’s entirely up to you to decide after spending time combing over audience data.
2) How can I support this revenue stream long term?
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, this role and approach 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 entirely new positions — within the company would have to align with whatever new marketing technology you decide o onboard.
3) How can data to fuel my reader revenue program?
The various ways individual readers engage with your brand’s content provides a wealth of first-party data that can help you test, learn, and optimize your program.
In turn, you can get the most out of your burgeoning revenue stream: net-new subscribers, higher retention rates, and, overall, greater profits. (A win-win-win.)
The key is to collect all of this rich data at the individual reader level.
Segment your audience based on a combination of reader attributes, preferences, and behaviors. Then, deliver relevant and engaging experiences across all your touchpoints.
You might collect behavioral data such as activity frequency to identify your most loyal readers. This informative data can enable your team(s) to 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 new, potential revenue streams a must for publishers
As is the case with testing for all brands today, you need to understand what the problem is (and what any experiments aim to solve for) then determine if the results are successful.
If you find a more concerted focus on readers does lead to revenue growth, problem 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 companies are turning to increasingly today to reinforce their bottom lines and audience engagement strategies.
Download our “Business Transformation in Media & Publishing” eBrief today to find out how a CDP can help you make the most of your first-party audience data.