Money Spinning: How Publishers Can Diversify Their Revenue Streams

Almost every other day, there are stories about publishers going bust and entire staffs being laid off. 

Sure, we’re sympathetic. But you have to wonder: were the owners relying too much on paywalls and not exploring other revenue streams? One weekly newspaper recently put its announcement that it was going under – behind a paywall!  

The need for diversification is the subject of a post by Media Makers Meet (Mx3).

“Subscription models play an important role in many publishers’ revenue strategies,” it says. “However, with research suggesting that subscription growth could be nearing its peak, media organizations must look beyond the paywall in search of new revenue-generating opportunities.”

These are not necessarily journalistic activities, but they help support good journalism. The New York Times now owns Wordle and Hearst acquired Puzzmo. As the essay bluntly states, “Relying solely on one revenue stream in an evolving media landscape is both risky and unsustainable. An economic downturn, unpredictable shifts in ad spend, changing algorithms, or a dramatic shift in consumer behavior can drastically affect your revenue, leaving you financially vulnerable.”



That’s particularly true if your entire revenue model is based on legacy print. But Mx3 offers six alternative sources of much-needed cash:

  1. Advertising and sponsorships – Presumably, you already make money on advertising. But are you leveraging it to the max? “By embracing a variety of formats including display ads, native advertising, video ads and in-text links, you can minimize ad fatigue and open up new revenue channels," Mx3 says. “Additionally, partnering with sponsors for branded content or events can create mutually beneficial relationships that also drive revenue and engagement.”
  2. E-commerce and affiliate marketing – Don’t laugh. This is a growing revenue stream for wise publishers. By curating and promoting relevant products or services on your online platforms, you can earn commission on sales or leads generated through your affiliate links.
  3. Events, conferences and webinars – TimeOut’s events in cities throughout the globe “bring together the best chefs, drinks and cultural experiences based on Time Out’s editorial curation, effectively bringing the brand ‘to life.’" Whatever form they take, these types of gatherings are often an ideal opportunity to increase newsletter subscriptions, upgrade readers to paid subscriptions, and repurpose existing content.
  4. Voluntary donations and crowdfunding – Of course, asking readers to make a voluntary contribution isn’t a new phenomenon. “The Guardian newspaper introduced its donation model back in 2016," Mx3 notes. As of 2023, around 1.1 million readers either donate or subscribe to its digital products, while 104,000 people subscribe to its newspapers and The Guardian weekly magazine.
  5. Leveraging digital content – That means repurposing your content and selling digital products like books or online courses – so-called passive income.  
  6. Data monetization – Just as publishers used to think of their subscriber list as an asset, so their first-party data is valuable.  “As a publisher, your in-depth understanding of niche segments of your audience and their preferences is gold dust for advertisers,” Mx3 concludes. 

That’s all very promising. But there are other models to follow. For example, Foundry, the B2B firm once known as IDG, is now a research and marketing giant. Cosmopolitan has launched a travel booking service, CosmosTrips. Other major publishers are hooking up with Hollywood. 

Here's one final piece of advice: don’t ignore your editorial product – as many have said, that’s the foundation on which everything else is based.
1 comment about "Money Spinning: How Publishers Can Diversify Their Revenue Streams".
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  1. Bob Sillick from independent marketing consultant, July 10, 2024 at 11:54 a.m.

    Good day, Ray.

    Thanks for the important article about alternative or additional revenue streams for publishers. Having written monthly for Editor & Publisher magazine for the past five years, I've interviewed many publishers, editors and others in the news industry. No topic receives more attention or generates more discussion and concern than how to generate sufficient revenues to maintain a publication and allow it to grow. I've written approximately 25 articles for its Revenue Roundup Series. Each highlights another revenue stream for publishers. The list in your article matches articles I've written for E&P but there are many other revenue opportunities that innovative, proactive publishers are utilizing, and successfully.

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