In these challenging economic times, new and old media publishers alike seek innovative ways to generate revenue from their content and expertise. Many of the approaches new media can take mirror those that have been used by traditional media outlets in the past, though often with a modern technology twist.
While the following list may not be exhaustive of all of the cash-producing opportunities presented to those who seek to commercialize their web content, it should provide a useful overview of the wide variety of options that exist.
NOTE: This list is focused on new media publishing companies, not individual bloggers.
1. Display Advertising
Many new media properties carry display ads on their web sites. These are some of the most common revenue generators, though they have become highly commoditized in recent years. Ad networks often sell “remnant inventory” across a wide range of sites at very low cost. Typically, a larger new media property would directly sell what ads it can at premium prices, then fill in remaining, less prominent ad spots with these ad networks. Display advertising can be challenging to price not only because of the remnant effect but because many advertisers value direct sales only in measuring ROI rather than factoring in the value of the repeated visual exposure. Display ads are typically sold on a cost per thousand views or cost per click basis.
2. Text Advertising
Many blogs and other new media properties incorporate text ads, usually provided by Google. The search advertising pioneer matches relevant ads to the content of individual pages created by the publisher. However, Google does not disclose the revenue share percentages, but merely provides payment on a “trust us” basis. For most sites, revenues from Google Ads provide a small amount of incremental revenue but are not major drivers of financial success. Most text ads are sold on a cost per click basis.
3. List Rental/Email Advertising
4. Classified Advertising
Just as newspapers have historically generated considerable revenue from classified advertising, new media content producers may bring in money from similar endeavors. Many professional sites incorporate job boards where employers can pay to list openings. Other sites may provide the ability for companies to be listed in a directory or to be more prominently featured in a more wide-ranging company list. These offerings typically provide access for companies that may not be in a position to make a more costly advertising purchase, as well as organizations seeking highly targeted responses from the audience.
5. Affiliate Programs
A variation on the advertising approach involves signing agreements with companies that may have a specific interest in your target audience. Typically, these arrangements pay a set fee or a percentage of every sale made. These programs can be promoted through display advertising, text links, or even on occasion editorial copy (when clearly marked).
Traditional media has licensed and syndicated content for many years, but now new media properties have begun to strike up similar deals. These can take a variety of forms, including the establishment of a proprietary wire service that old and new media alike can subscribe to. At the simpler end of the scale, it might simply be an arrangement to permit another site to directly carry one publisher’s content.
Traditional media has used conferences and events for years as a way to generate supplemental revenue. From cruises to exotic locales with interesting speakers to more conventional professional development programs, there are many options in this area. Many popular new media sites today generate a substantial portion of their revenue from these types of activities.
8. Research Reports
As an extension of the editorial content that a new media publication provides, research reports offer the ability to go into greater depth on specific issues. These can be particularly compelling in professional industries that require access to current information on market conditions, trends, technical developments, and more. In effect, the shorter, free content serves as a teaser for these more comprehensive studies and analyses.
Despite the oft-repeated mantra that “content wants to be free,” a number of publishers have been successful in charging for online content. Those with the greatest success seem to be business-oriented media providing industry newsletters, professional publications, or other similar content. In some cases, successful new media publications may be partnered with print media siblings or cousins that may provide additional sources of revenue.
Just as newspapers, radio, and television may sell access to previous editions or shows, new media can do the same thing. The web site might include a certain chronological series of content for free, while charging on a per-item or subscription basis to the older content. Many sites are now achieving an age in which this becomes far more feasible than it was in the past.
11. Online Stores
Some new media publications may operate online retail stores that sell things relevant to the audience, including logo merchandise, books, or other products. Sometimes the inventory may even include things not directly related to the content of the publication, but rather of interest to the audience in some other way.
New media organizations sometimes enter into agreements with other online properties or traditional media outlets. These arrangements may generate revenue directly or indirectly, including by payments from the partner to the new media publisher for its content. Most often, these agreements seek to provide mutual exposure, although in certain circumstances funds may change hands, especially if there is a significant disparity in the audience or content that each brings to the table.
Some publishers offer consulting services to companies interested in reaching their target audience. These arrangements can be focused on broad strategic objectives or may be offered to help maximize the benefit of sponsorship and advertising arrangements with the publisher. Many times such services will be offered as a “value added” component of other revenue-generating deals, but they are on occasion offered separately.
Some blogs and other new media properties operate on the “tip jar” approach where they rely on readers to send in money to help support the efforts of the content producer. These are more often found on sites run by individuals, but sometimes they may be present for larger organizations. Just as public radio and television solicit direct funding, so too are there some non-profit new media properties that rely on audience contributions to sustain them. A variation on this approach is requesting “voluntary subscriptions” which are little more than donations, but simply framed differently. These programs may offer tax-deductible opportunities, but often are merely direct cash payments.
Often new media properties will enable companies to purchase sponsorships that may contain a mix of benefits, packaging together many of the revenue-generating options discussed here. Sponsorships enable the content producer to offer a suite of offerings that may make the ROI more appealing than the same items offered a la carte.