On the surface, monetisation seems simple enough. After all, it’s just making money from your online content, isn’t it? But like most things, it isn’t as simple as just putting your content online and watching the revenue come flooding in.
There is no definitive answer as to what makes the perfect monetisation strategy, as it varies from industry to industry and publisher to publisher. However, there are two things that must happen in any successful monetisation strategy. Firstly, any publisher will struggle to successfully monetise their content if they don’t earn the trust of their readers. Secondly, publishers must keep their readers interested and involved if they are to have any chance of monetising effectively. To do this, engagement and personalisation are of paramount importance.
EARNING TRUST & ENGAGEMENT
There is no point in a publisher even attempting to monetise their content if there’s no-one reading it. Any successful monetisation strategy comprises of an effective way to earn reader’s trust and its concomitant traffic.
How best to do this really does depend on the publisher. There are numerous ways that a publisher can earn the trust of its readers:
- Think about who your target audience is and research about their online habits (like what social media platforms are your target audience mainly on? On what platform do they normally receive their news?). Segment this list to add further personalisation.
- Build an email list and put all focus on monetising through that list.
- Offer content for free.
- Offer your own content which is of value to the reader (i.e. blogs or ebooks).
- Do NOT try to start selling or asking for money straight away.
If we come across a website that starts asking us for our money straight away (either through advertising or asking for donations), the majority of us would come out and probably not go back to that website in a hurry. The same goes for publishers.
Building a list is one thing, but keeping readers engaged with your product or content is another. There is a fine balance between innocently trying to advertise your content and coming across as overly aggressive, putting readers off. Encouraging readers to participate in events, discussions and competitions is a productive, if not expensive, way of engaging your audience and making them feel valued and involved.
In short, every successful monetisation campaign is based around a list and very much tailored to that list – including what is advertised and promoted.
When the word monetisation comes to mind, most of us would probably think of advertising. It’s undoubtedly the most efficient way of generating revenue online, but the recent rise in the use of ad blockers shows that any advertising used must be relevant, targeted and in moderation. Sponsored links and native advertising are the two most common ways of doing this, since they are less offensive than banner ads, as well as not incurring the substantial cost and being ignored less than PPC (Pay-Per-Click) ads. They are more targeted by default. If used correctly, they can provide a steady income stream, and are good monetisation tools to use at the start of a campaign when it’s too early to really start charging readers for your content.
Despite being a solid monetisation strategy, these must be used with restraint (as no-one likes having their reading experience interrupted by ads). It is foolish to rely on ads completely.
The most successful monetisation strategies go beyond ads, focusing to a greater extent on content monetisation (how to generate income from what you produce). The number of possible ways to try to do this is almost limitless, but the main methods are:
- Many publishers have successfully put up paywalls in the past, but as was mentioned earlier, there is no method that works for all publishers (for example, The Times has a hard paywall while some publishers, like the New York Times, have had huge success with a softer paywall). If you feel that your content is of a high-enough quality and gives enough value to your readers to warrant some or all of your content being behind a paywall, then there is nothing wrong with experimenting.
- Offering memberships. Holding back your best content only to subscribers (like The Telegraph) for members or rewards for recommending someone else to become a member is a good way to make readers want to subscribe and get others to join.
- Be on multiple platforms. Many of us, particularly younger readers, are using handheld platforms to read our news, so posting your content on as many platforms as possible is one of the best ways to make sure that you reach your entire readership, and thus monetise more.
- Asking for donations. This is generally the least effective method mentioned, but if the content is of a sufficient level of value to your readers, they may be prepared to pay for it voluntarily.
A successful monetisation strategy doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a lot of thought about who you want your audience to be, a lot of analysis to decide what the right path to take is, a lot of patience with the giving away of free things to earn the trust of your readers, and a lot of experimentation to truly know what works best.
So whilst there is no concrete answer as to what a successful monetisation strategy consists of, what is certain is that without a core audience that you target and earn the trust of, making money online is all but impossible.