Monetization can be a particularly tricky affair. Finding what strategy works for your content provisioning strategy isn’t easy.
The most common approach is to subsidize your readers by creating high quality content that draws in visitor traffic. You can then use your site’s popularity to sell advertising to persons or organizations interested in reaching this specific target market.
But even when you have a fairly good grasp of what your goals, requirements and target market are, implementing your ideas can be difficult. It isn’t a lost cause though. The following is a look at customer monetization techniques that have worked for plenty of publishers.
Before we get down to discussing each, it’s important to emphasize the crucial role customer monetization software suites play in breathing life into these techniques. A monetization platform such as Cloudesire enhances the ability of the publisher to automate product and ad sales thus accelerating revenue growth.1. Free-at-First
Some digital publishers will provide part or all of their content or services for free at the beginning or indefinitely. The idea is to gain credibility among prospects thereby making it easier to convert them to paying customers (read more for a practical example of a partially free service).
Free content and services is a great short-term strategy for growth. Digital publications with high quality content and services can see their popularity soar rapidly. It’s an organic way of building a customer base or readership. That said, completely free content isn’t sustainable for most publishers. One must have a roadmap to transition to a different model long-term.2. Direct Sales
Direct selling is the most straightforward way of monetizing customers. However, establishing a platform that persuades prospects into ordering your product - or even better, third party products - can be complex. You have to factor inventory management, order fulfillment, customer service, and a plethora of processes. Most important, you need an enabling software suite.
The effectiveness of a direct sales approach will vary from publisher to publisher. Streaming sites such as Netflix have been remarkably successful. However, such providers have to contend with the possibility of their audience getting the same or similar content from elsewhere for free or at a lower cost.3. Metered Paywall
There’s a time when many publishers pursued exclusivity as a customer monetization strategy. Thanks to the unavailability of such content elsewhere, this approach was quite successful. However, the Internet has changed dramatically since those glory days. Today, there’s a high likelihood that customers can access identical or similar content elsewhere for free.
Ergo, the majority of consumers who run into a paywall will choose to look for the same information elsewhere at a cheaper cost or for free. This has necessitated a hybrid solution: the metered paywall. That means free access for a limited period then requiring payment thereafter. The New Yorker is one of the more notable publishers employing this approach.
An alternative is to allow the reader access to a number of content pieces each month then requiring payment for additional articles. The Harvard Business Review follows this model.4. Affiliate Linking
Affiliate linking is one of the oldest customer monetization techniques on the Internet. While there are different ways in which it is applied, most times it involves a publisher of detailed product reviews including a link to the product’s home site. The publisher is the affiliate and receives a commission each time a successful sale is completed via the affiliate link.
Product review publishers rely on search engine optimization and social media marketing to drive traffic to their sites since higher visibility increases the prospects of sales. As long as the content is unique and engaging, affiliate linking can be an effective monetization tactic.5. Native Advertising Campaign
As opposed to pursuing revenue from readers, some digital publishers look to advertising. Banner ads are going out of fashion but native advertising (also known as sponsored content) has proved successful for both advertisers and publishers.
Unlike direct ads, native advertising takes the form of a write-up sharing informative market or industry insights but that includes subtle mentions of the advertiser and their product. Leading online publishers ranging from The Economist and Bloomberg, to The Guardian and Washington Post, are leveraging the tens of millions of monthly visitors to their sites to rake in revenue from native advertising.
6. Non-traditional Methods
The methods we’ve discussed above are fairly established and most have been in widespread use for at least a decade. Their effectiveness has been proven over the years which is why so many publishers are using them.
Nevertheless, digital publishers are constantly looking for new ways to grow their revenue and stay ahead of the competition. This has seen the emergence of new and innovative approaches to marketing.
One such method is event promotion. This could apply to online events (such as podcasts, webcasts and webinars) and offline events (like exhibitions, seminars and conferences). Another non-traditional technique is to tap into the expertise of a niche internet marketing agency (for instance, see Life Science Marketing Agency in London, UK).
We have looked at the above strategies separately but the reality is no successful publisher relies on only one method for monetization. For best results, you must define your short, medium and long-term goals, create a budget then pick the most appropriate methods. Keep an eye on the performance of each method so you can double down on the ones that work.