Monetizing your content is why you create your content in the first place. Several factors that have emerged in prior years converged in 2016 to make things very challenging for content publishers. Throughout the history of publishing, there have been two key means of monetizing your content; 1-paid subscriptions and 2-advertising and classified ads (which are advertising but they were the life-blood of regional and local newspapers for decades).
In 2016 a couple of trends grew to the point where the creation of a strong economic model became more of a challenge. These trends are not likely to slow down as we roll into 2017. Three really big monetization trends stand out:
- Ad Blocking
- Algorithmic/Programmatic Advertising
- Ad Viewability & Density
- Nearly unlimited advertising space.
According to eMarketers, the proportion of users in the US that use ad blockers had hit 15.6% by 2014 and was expected to reach 26.3% by the end of last year (2016) and is likely to expand to nearly 33% of all internet use. This software works along with your web browser to prevent any server known to serve an ad from delivering any content. This software is primarily used on desktops, but use on mobile devices is growing quickly and is likely to equal the 60+ million desktop users in the next couple of years. This is obviously a problem for content publishers in that while the content will get delivered, the accompanying ads will not be delivered, so there’s no way to monetize that user.
While it’s not really a popular thought, online advertising is less about advertising and branding than it is about selling. There are typically ‘back end metrics’ like Acquisition Cost that directly measure the success or failure of this advertising. The success or failure is typically tied some measure of success like ‘the cost to acquire a new subscriber’, the Cost of Sales’, etc. From a cost perspective, this makes perfect sense. If you are measuring your success purely from a statistical perspective, programmatic advertising makes a lot of sense, much in the same way that algorithmic stock trading makes perfect sense. An “efficient market” can be created this way. The growth of programmatic advertising has done a couple of things to the content world:
- It’s created an efficient market from the marketers perspective by helping to drive down the cost of advertising space, which yields less money for content publishers.
- The playing field for content publishers has evened out, giving “garbage” publishers an equal chance of landing advertising dollars as more premium publishers are getting a shrinking slice of the advertising pie.
Ad Viewability started out to be a big “thing” back in 2014 and 2015 but has become a little less important in 2016, largely due to the increase in programmatic advertising. A lot of the programmatic advertising, like that from Google AdSense is performance based, so if there is no action like a click, there’s no revenue to be made, so actually SEEING the ad is a foregone conclusion with this type of advertising. Ad viewability is still important for premium advertisers and where there is some aspect of brand association with a type of content.
The final point above, the seeming unlimited advertising inventory due to social media advertising and an endless offering of slideshows from every type and quality of publisher. There is a finite amount of time where readers engage in content online and much of the additional time is spent engaging with social media and let’s just call it ‘soft’ or ‘light’ content.
Now we’ve given you all of the challenges of monetizing your content — that you likely already know, so the question now comes — what do we do next?
There are several levels of content types ranging from Informative Content, Discovery Content and Decision Enablement Content. Informative content is just that, you are hoping to inform a user about a piece of information, like a news article. Discovery content provides additional insight into a subject or topic once the user/reader has been informed. This is for consumers/readers that want to know more than the basics about a subject and are willing to engage themselves to find out more. Decision Enablement content is content that a consumer will use to inform themselves about a product or service that they want to purchase.
The economic need of content publishers moving into 2017 and beyond is to increase their ability to monetize their content through means beyond pure advertising models. The economics of content publishing are getting pinched with slower or negative revenue growth combined with either flat or growing costs to create content, the economics of content publisher have never been more difficult.
All of the types of content can be used to drive an additional type of revenue that many publishers have shied away from for years, and that is the Action based revenue available from Lead Generation. We’ve fortunately come up with a new way of talking about CPA revenue and many publishers have begun to embrace this as a potentially very lucrative stream of revenue. Since the economic model used to be geared towards other revenue sources, many content publishers are not currently prepared to take advantage of Lead Generation revenue.
We have a lot of experience creating non-CPM based revenue in areas like:
- Freemium model. Using free content as a vehicle to drive users to pay for premium content subscriptions
- Lead Generation model. Another old-line taboo formerly known as the CPA (cost per acquisition) model. This model has become a very popular model with some of our clients and partners. A previous employer generated 65% of our total revenue via lead generation. It’s a very different model from CPM-based ad supported content and needs to be managed and operated differently.
The way that the business needs to be conducted and viewed is very different from a pure ad supported content creation model. We have had great success driving traffic and growing revenue with content publishers using a Freemium model where free content is used to drive interest in premium (paid/subscription) content as well as the pure lead-generation content used by content publishers like Road and Track, Cosmopolitan, Popular Mechanics, PCMag, BusinessNewsDaily have all been able to create very good content and make money driving towards product sales (lead generation) for companies that historically would have been advertising on their content, but today are less likely to.
No 2 situations are the same. Our approach is to help you define, plan, implement and launch new monetization models that fit your content as well as your goals as a publisher, while maintaining a proper Church — State divide between the editorial and the marketers’ products that you as a publisher want to maintain.