New and established publishers alike soon learn that there is an art to mastering content monetization for their publishing business. Are you sure you know how to monetize online content? Do you need better content guidelines for monetization? Do you want to know how to monetize a digital magazine? Do you know how to monetize your content outside of a magazine format, such as via a blog? Maybe you’re wanting to learn how to monetize video content. Luckily for you, we know and we’re telling all in this article.
If you really want to know how to monetize your online content, magazine, video, brochure or other online content, you’ll need to empty your cup and let someone else pour in ideas you may have brushed off long ago, often prematurely. Or maybe you’ve just never gotten there yet and don’t want to make mistakes? In either case, this post is for you!
Not a magazine (yet)? If you’re
- A blog
- A vlog (video blog) such as on a YouTube channel
- An online store with a digital product catalog
- An audio content site
- A coaching site or channel
- Any other content-subscription site
Then this blog post is really for you, too. For the sake of convenience, we’ll just pre-classify them all as “digital magazines +” to help understand the dynamics behind content monetization for online serial content. Okay, so ready to learn how to monetize a digital magazine +?
Content monetization definition: The goal of content monetization is to profit from current leads, including former or existing customers, such as opt-in list members. To learn how to monetize a magazine, it helps to learn from those already doing it well and distill their proven content monetization techniques.
Monetization Methods for Digital Magazines (+)
There are actually many ways to monetize an online magazine (+). Below, we’ll cover the key content guidelines for monetization and a few new and unconventional ways you may not have seriously considered yet. Ready to empty your cup? Go ahead and toss whatever was in there and imagine with me.
Rework Your Opt-In
I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking that you didn’t click on an article about how to how to monetize a magazine, blog or other content just to find opt-in tips? But the truth is, if your opt-in strategy is not working, you’re not going to be getting your maximum of opt-ins when you have prospects in your grasp.
If you really want to know how to monetize a digital magazine or other serial content better, the opt-in is the best place to start since it’s a key dynamic of content monetization because it can help you secure regular eyeballs and eventually grow subscribers. After all, you can’t monetize a magazine, blog or vlog if your content audience doesn’t exist!
Squeeze pages that ask for an email opt-in aren’t just about “giving it away”. They’re about giving online shoppers a taste of the premium content, a paid subscription. You’ll need to think out why you yourself would opt into a magazine like yours, test out different CTAs, copy, images, and whatever is connected to your total opt-in experience. Once you’re go that down, proceed to the following.
From the opt-in, you get the email address — now what? Maybe you’re already getting opt-ins, but what do you do with the lead from there?
Yes. Lead. Opt-ins should be treated as valuable because they are hard to come by. You can’t likely monetize your content if nobody is returning to your site on a regular basis.
That opt-in is supposed to become a lead that goes into your funnel and drip campaign — to try and entice your opt-in leads via stuff they’ve specifically expressed an interest in. And to do that last bit, you’ll need a way to opt them into the topics they really care about most. That’s why your simple one-size-fits-all opt-in method is not enough. You need to create a multi-faceted opt-in that tells your new leads you really have their tastes in mind.
This is NOT the nag-till-they-buy approach! Don’t do that, by the way. That’s not how to monetize a magazine (and it never, ever works). It actually sends people reaching for the spam button on their inbox controls.
Use the content concierge approach. When you get a new funnel lead (email opt-in), you need to be asking them at the opt-in CTA what they care about. The best way would be a suggested category box that fills in the rest for them like Google does with autosuggest. Another way is a few simple checkboxes.
Just remember this: the more granular you allow your opt-in to get, the more likely that opt-in lead is to see your content resource (be it a travel magazine, a cooking blog or a clothing catalog), and the more likely they’re going to do the rest of your marketing for you — via putting you on their Apple Watch, Alexa or Google Assistant instant notifications A-list. And that’s probably where you’d really want to be, right?
Use (Web/Browser/App/Push) Notifications
Giving visitors the option of signing up for notifications is throwing out a welcome mat. It’s a signal saying that you’ve got things with them specifically in mind. Now you’re a curator, a concierge.
Don’t be thrown off by the timing factor. Whenever people see that notification and are busy, sure, they won’t pounce on it. Okay/. But they can always review it later when clearing out their notifications on their laptop or smartphone, and that’s when the notification normally pays off for most online businesses anyway.
Optimize your notifications strategy. Your notifications should be configured as much as possible, just as should your email opt-in. You’re doing that — right?
What’s more, by giving your visitors that choice, you’re allowing them to decide how they’ll interact and what they care about seeing. With the right analytics, you can understand how they’re interacting, as well as how often people care about X topic/product, but not so much with Y topic/product, and now you’re measuring intent upstream ahead of the visit.
OneSignal is Flip180’s top choice for web/browser/push/app notifications right now (no we don’t have an affiliate relationship with OneSignal…yet, but we probably will soon because they rock). What’s truly great about OneSignal’s analytics is that you can get truly useful metrics like confirmed delivery with all push notifications. That means that if your lead has changed devices and from there makes a conversion, you can still track them as the same lead. That’s pretty great, considering the alternative of leaving the trail covered in the shifting internet sands.
OneSignal also has analytics on their In-App Carousel to identify the areas where you lose visitors and gives you the ability to localize push messaging to personalize the experience of your audience.
With these metrics, you’ve got enough to prove the value of notification marketing to your organizational decision-maker– and really no excuse not to. And like all the other methods mentioned in this post, OneSignal is configurable to work with Flip180’s own 360UX™ content platform for magazines, catalogs and blogs who want to become either of those.
Even if you opt for another provider, you should look for similar features and let that be the pivot of your decision process. The point is to understand and properly market to your leads, after all. Notification marketing is just the newest and fastest-progressing tool in the digital marketing toolbox. If you’re seriously looking to monetize your content, it helps to get in front of them and to track impact on a granular level.
Use Subscription Bait
Why wouldn’t you include your opt-in list into your content monetization methods? Of course, you would in a sense, but you probably don’t think of this as content monetization, right? Aha….
Bait not only works but the reader expects it. If you don’t entice the reader with your existing content as free sample content, then you’re simply not doing opt-in list content monetization right yet. So what’s the best way to bait onlookers on social and your direct digital marketing channels like email and push notifications?
Provide your best content as free content. That’s right. Not only is it easier to do (you know what’s getting read most), it’s also smarter since readers will judge your value proposition by the quality and impact of the initial articles. Celebrity/authority interviews, insightful news stories on current events, whatever your content angle is, make sure they get the chance to read some of your best content for free before they come across your paid subscription CTA.
We recommend 1-3 free articles per month. This allows your opt-in to get a regular taste of your magazine, but understand that there’s an unlimited buffet awaiting just inside the subscribers-only area. It’s one of the most proven and used answers to the question of how to monetize a magazine. It’s frankly the best method, since subscriptions are automatic, not spontaneous impulse purchases like a new pair of shoes.
Let’s face it, for any blog, news site or online magazine, sample content is the signboard people see as they pass by your social updates in the social media ether. If they stop, strangers only stop by because either your content is so show-stopping and right for them or you’re offering free samples at the door. Offer them your best freebies and keep them coming back for more, even if they aren’t yet full subscribers. You want to brand your reader, not shut them out. You want them to get a full taste of how great your channel is. Make them want the full service experience and keep up-selling (more on that later in this post).
Upsell Your Paid Subscribers
That came sooner than you were probably expecting, right? But it’s true. Your branded readers are sold on your brand. If they subscribe, chances are they believe in it and are proud to be readers. You need to capitalize on that feeling if you want to pick the lowest hanging content monetization fruit. I’ll explain…
Branded readers need to participate to stay branded. True for political campaigns and movie franchises, fans want fan merch to feed their brand cravings. When they can opt for buying some, this allows them to brag on your brand.
Monetize your content with brand swag! Most people want to be a believer in something. Your brand could well be that brand fan’s next big phase. And while it may indeed be a mere phase, it could be the phase that keeps them committed, as most branded fans don’t typically jump ship once they’ve bought in — that’s just not good for their brand as clued-in people.
Make useful branded swag a subscription incentive. The best use of branded swag is as part of the subscription bait. They want to believe in something that they can become a part of instantly. So give them the opportunity with branded swag merch like a free tote (this is the New Yorker’s favorite ploy because of the cultural cachet of being a subscriber in the know. You don’t have to be famous to get a similar incentive to work. It’s simple to create branded merch with a VistaPrint account and a little imagination on the part of your marketing head and graphic designer.
Video content, VIPs? Extending out multiple levels of premium content is a great way to let subscribers know there’s more great content higher up the subscriber ladder. Video content is one way to do that, but really the possibilities are endless for both branding and revenue expansion when you dream up a crazy, brand-perfect way to give your readers the true red carpet experience. For diehard fans of your more specialized and in-depth content, you need to go the extra mile. B2B sites like Gartner and Statista mastered this approach long ago. But your consumer magazine (or other content service) could also, if you found the right angle to pitch.
Monetizing Content Curation
There are several ways to monetize your content via monetizing content curation as a service to your audience. Below are a few of the best.
“Best of” and “top” lists should reflect the best of the genre you’re able to review. It may not be okay to rank sites or products by how much they’re willing to pay, but it’s perfectly legal to charge them to be ranked in the list at all. Many magazines and blogs are ripe for this because not only is the list editable at any stage, it’s also potentially easy to find in SERPs so long as it’s text-based. Just make sure you make it clear you’re charging to rank them on the list, not to rank them where they’d prefer to rank!
Many puzzling over how to monetize a magazine could learn a lot from a B2B data research company like Gartner or Statista. Many such B2B research firms charge a nominal fee for their primary research. This is a great way to avoid charging for inclusion and to provide great research. These pieces are a bit more troublesome to product, however, as experts will be needed to research and interpret the data. You can’t necessarily do this yourself, unless you’re also an expert on the topic.
If your research or listicle is free and you want to keep it that way, you’ll need to rely on ads to pay for them, especially when they don’t result in a sale. We cover ads elsewhere in this list, but just be sure that you know how you’re going to filter out ads from your competitors. The listicle or guide or eBook is what may draw them in via search results, but your active revenue models are how you pay for such quality content.
Monetize Your Content via Sponsored Content
Usually, when people mention monetizing content curation, what they’re really thinking of sponsored content in some form. What’s great about sponsored content is that not only is it a strong form of content monetization for your site or digital magazine, it’s a great way to showcase content and products your brand actually supports and believes in. Unlike display ads (which can work), sponsored content allows you to support those causes, events and products that matter to you and your readers most.
Every click on a sponsored content piece is like an extension of your own brand. Your competitors can’t advertise through the backdoor as they might on AdSense. Moreover, what’s on display is something that supports the brand category. So, if yours is an outdoors magazine, what could be better than sponsored content that promotes the lifestyle and brand-complementary products that you don’t sell? Now you’re making revenue on your entire category without even specializing in the product itself.
Sponsored content can double as a kind of alternative magazine feature. Hiking boots are perfect for the outdoors magazine reader, and so probably are mountain bikes and snow visors. When you feature a product you know is quality and right for some readers, you’re doing all your readers a favor. Try to make sure tha ad content is truly of high informational value. It might be best to skip or at least distance your editorial identity from those you can’t truly vouge for.
Tracking Sponsored Content Is Easy
What’s also pretty great about sponsored content is that it’s easier to track hits to their main feature right from the CTA and offer your sponsored content advertisers meaningful metrics right from third-party providers (we talk elsewhere a little more about internal sponsored ad link tracking).
Monetize Your Content with Display Ads
We have a healthy caution about this particular content monetization method, but it can work for many content providers, nonetheless. The trick here is the configuration.
Here, you’ll need to try to weed out your competitors as much as humanly possible. That’s if you want to how to monetize a magazine of yours and not your competitor’s! But doing this can be a tall order for display ads on Google and Bing. Still, by running a targeted display campaign, you ensure that your targeted traffic’s clicked ads automatically earn a certain percentage of your total revenue model. Period.
This same dynamic can be used on your YouTube channel. Don’t overlook this opportunity for your video content! People watch videos on YouTube like they formerly watched cable TV. Commercials are a breather for distracted viewers with immediate demands, like snacking, scratching an itch with the back scratcher, letting the dog out…you get the idea.AdSense is the recognized leader in display ad campaigns on content publisher sites. If you’re going to use display ads as part of your site revenue strategy toolbox, be careful to filter out competitors and entire categories you don’t want to display.
Advertising Your Content?!
You heard me right. Promoting more views of your content may not sound like making revenue, but it can be for those who’ve got all of the above techniques down. One reason is that once they see your content, you’ll have a thoroughly-tested CTA waiting for them if they’re not already logged in as a subscriber-status opt-in.
OutBrain is one source for many who’d like to try promoting their own content to a wider category-based and filtered audience as automated sponsored content, without the direct negotiating part, but it’s probably best for product sites and tabloids with their own busy on-site display ad campaigns.
If you really want to get your in-depth music magazine or culture content seen, however, you’re best off pitching to content curators directly and using a tool like SEMRUSH to find out who the big curators actually are for your niche. You may need to curate those curators, however, as sometimes big traffic sites turn out to be a big trash bin when you actually see them first-hand. Be sure what’s on your list meets a human eye’s approval and passes the common sense test.
Once you’ve got a steady stream of targeted traffic coming from a content curator, consider giving them a special promotion on that special landing page just for them. Now is the perfect time to monetize your content — by offering them free content! X number of free articles a week is a pretty good way to rope in regular readers. Build up their habit, and then allow the value of your drip campaign to do the rest. But make sure that drip campaign is A/B tested regularly for impact!
90’s website with tiny fonts and lots of moving GIFs? Yeah, maybe betta not… It might be fine for a “lo-fi” specialty/cult audience or a tabloid, but most upscale content sites are aiming a bit higher in the 2020s. Click-farms exist for just this sort of exploitation of advertisers, so try to weed those out.
There are also certain additional marketing benefits of OutBrain which we cannot feasibly print in this blog post. They will be printed in heaven, along with all the other best-kept secrets of digital marketers.
How to Monetize YouTube Content
Pew Research has also confirmed that YouTube is the most popular online platform in America.
Not only can you post your own ads on your YouTube channel and then insert them into ad rotation as a campaign, your videos can allow ads to run alongside your videos, creating revenue built on proven techniques of the viral video superheroes, but it’s important to focus on your niche and the tone and valence that works for your audience.
Focus hard on using the right valence, image and verbiage. If your audience are all 20 and 30-somethings, don’t talk to them from another vantage point. If they’re stockbrokers and investors, consider that as your profit zone for ad targeting on your channel. YouTube is fairly good at running ads on autopilot, but you may find that honing your channel optimization via optimized and focused naming, keywords and descriptions will be a big part of your success at video monetization.
Above all, give 110% value. Some of the best B2B channels on YouTube have mastered the ultimate and only true formula on how to monetize video content: lean value. They edit the video until there’s no fat, no wasted time, no distraction from each point, and their CTAs are all crystal clear. You don’t get a second chance. One view and it’s done. Make it count! And then with your superior quality channel of superior quality videos will come a superior quality of video ad revenue.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these strategic guidelines for monetizing content. If you’re new to Flip180, trust me, you need this blog in your inbox and on your browser notifications, so sign up for both.