Paywalls vs. Revenue Diversity: 5 Ways to Make More Money Online In Addition to Putting Up a Paywall

December 18, 2012

It’s a well-known fact that in order to survive in today’s world, publishers must find ways to offset declining print ad revenues and make money online. For many, the paywall is the most appealing answer. Take the New York Times (NYT) for example: according to The Guardian, the publication’s paywall gleans an average of almost 5,000 new subscribers a week.

However, this type of result is not universal and as Frédéric Filloux points out, may not be a long-term solution for all.  Paywall success often depends on having a sizable audience; a well-established brand, carefully managed porosity; and high-demand, unique, quality content. This is not to say that it can’t or shouldn’t be done—but you should consider a couple of factors:

1)    Paywalls may prove challenging for publishers without a huge staff and budget.

2)    Pursuing additional revenue streams online may be worthwhile to convert more visitors to customers, AND boost your bottom line.

There is a wealth of potential in marketing your content by finding ways to increase the average revenue per reader (RPR). It may be easier to sell a report or webinar to a first-time visitor, for example, than ask them to commit to an annual subscription.  It starts with understanding content and media preferences.  Read on to learn five ways ePublishing’s clients have diversified their revenue:

1. Consider Alternative User Generated Content: Events, Buyer’s Guides, Classifieds

Whether your site serves water processing professionals or guitar enthusiasts, your readers need more than the news to make decisions and to be fully informed about the market or industry.  Why not provide a dynamic, useful resource for your community? With so many competing options, readers have limited time and they value being able to visit one place to keep up with what is happening in their professional or enthusiast community, whether they want to buy equipment, attend a conference or find a vendor.

Your website can serve as that online community without requiring more of your time and resources. Events Listings, Classifieds and Buyers’ Guides provide advertisers and organizations the opportunity to showcase their products and services while providing you with content, traffic and revenue. Microwave Journal provides a complete resource, delivering a user-driven Buyer’s Guide on ePublishing’s SaaS CMS, to provide valuable information for its professional audience and qualified leads for its advertisers.

Buyer’s Guide advertisers create and manage their premium listing, called Vendor View, using images, downloads and video to create a virtual storefront, then they pay for the listing via a secure shopping cart. With this self-service virtual storefront, advertisers not only upload media and update company and product information from one easy dashboard; they also receive detailed lead data.

Visitors search Vendor View listings by category, keyword and company or browse alphabetically.While company information is submitted by the advertiser, each listing also draws from website content to relate articles and news to the company products, services and events in order to update and supplement product information and media.

2. Turn Image and Video Galleries into Profit

People enjoy seeing images of people and events from the community, and that is certainly a way to engage your readers.  Why not also give users something they can use or learn from.  Make sure you have tools to take your Image and Video Galleries to another level by creating slideshows and videos with associated content that provide critical training, product information or support material.  Galleries are another potential resource that can be user generated and moderated by editorial staff to deliver a resource that is highly valued by your readers.  

Revenue opportunities arise from contests, professional training or certifications, and product updates – it pays to deliver value-added content in multiple formats!

3. Personalize the Buyer Experience to Sell Books, DVDs, Downloads is a magazine website that sells a lot of DVDs and downloads.  The site relaunched with a focus on enhancing the buyer experience by applying the rules of context awareness to present product recommendations with articles and search results.  The site captures reader preferences with Registration and User Management Features. In doing so, Success staff can target promotions, email and product recommendations based on individual preferences readers provide during registration or through their behavior on the site.

Using a taxonomy system to create semantic associations between articles, products and events, Success staff can present intelligent Featured Recommendations when and where customers want them: in drop-down menus, on article pages and in the online store lobby.

As a result, Success readers have a richer and easier shopping experience, without having to do all the legwork.

4. Industry Data, Sold Through an Enhanced Shopping Cart

It’s one thing to monetize your content and another to actually sell it from your site.  When Modern Distribution Management assessed what information its readers needed to reduce their risk of important product and market investments it also wanted to make it easier to buy.  In addition to selling subscriptions, individual newsletter issues and pay per view articles MDM wanted to be sure customers are comfortable purchasing high-end industry data. MDM invested in shopping cart enhancements that resulted in a 40% decline in shopping cart abandonment and a corresponding increase in sales.

After identifying a few points of “friction” in their checkout process, they applied several industry best practices, to streamline their registration and checkout process:

1.     Allow buyers to check out as a guest instead of requiring registration and login for all purchases.

2.     Use autofill capability to reduce the personal information registered users need to fill out to make a purchase.

3.     Add security certification badges and links to the MDM privacy policy to reassure new customers.

4.     Modify design to present check out, continue shopping and other calls to action prominently and intuitively.

Added Value: Of course, it helped that MDM’s checkout functionality was supported by integrations with their fulfillment provider and credit card processor.  MDM could quickly capture buyer information and provide immediate access to premium content following each transaction.

5. Provide Strategic Sponsorships: Monetize Page-Views

Using Site Analytics, you can determine where and how people are accessing content on your site. Once you’ve determined that, it’s easy to identify where advertising will achieve the greatest visibility. That knowledge, paired with a flexible site design has allowed Indiana Business Journal to make key real estate available to their sponsors. Take their site search box as an example. Just below the search field on the upper right of any page of the site, you will find the sponsor of that search box. Not a bad way to get in front of your target.

These are just a few simple ways that our clients are diversifying their revenue and generating more income on their websites. By capturing user data and acting on that data, they are creating different kinds of users—ensuring that a paywall isn’t the only key to their success.