UK: How To Monetise Original Digital Content

Last Updated: 15 May 2013
Article by Julie Coleman

In a crowded market-place where information is a commodity on the web, customers want original, quality content. This creates a challenge for publishers when it comes to turning a profit, particularly general news sites which do not have a product that is specialised enough to justify a successful pay wall. The reason for this is that premium content is costly to produce. This is due to expensive journalists on the pay roll as well as big-money celebrity partnerships. Popular editorial content also requires good pictures, which cost thousands of pounds.

To offset this high cost base, let's consider how a publisher can increase existing revenue streams by making the most of its web space and content.

New audience growth

Publishers can grow their audience in many ways, including marketing, search and distribution. Once they have created an attractive destination site, it is simpler to attract customers with a marketing campaign. Search is also highly effective. Although original content typically performs well in natural search, this can be improved through search engine optimisation (SEO) or a paid search campaign.

Distribution deals will also grow new unique visitors (UVs) and page views (PVs). Cash free 'traffic exchange' deals can be agreed, where the publisher asks another site to send them traffic in return for them directing traffic back via RSS feeds and curated modules. New traffic can also be sent to a publisher using paid services such as Stumble Upon Paid Discovery.

Finally consider content syndication. If a publisher has spent time and money creating original content, they have ownership rights and should capitalise on this. They can do this by striking deals with other publishers to integrate sections of their website into the partner's site. The publisher who owns the content hosts it, however, it uses the partner's website header and it appears to be the partner's content. The advantage for the partner is that their audience has access to content they have not had to spend time and money producing, while the publisher receives a revenue share from the advertising inventory sold.

Audience recirculation

Recirculating existing traffic increases page views. To do this effectively the web page layout needs to be considered. The website's homepage is a good traffic generator to other channels, as most people land on the homepage first. Many websites have a rotating content module on their homepage (where the user can click through many content links within the same module). Managing this well increases traffic recirculation from the homepage to other channels; methods include monitoring the click-through rate to replace the lower performing links and promoting content from channels which need more web inventory to fully deliver booked advertising campaigns. Effective strategies also include using attention grabbing text links and images throughout the page and where possible running engaging, clickable video content.

Existing traffic should also be recirculated to the homepage. This can be done by creating links against original content in channels, for when the customer journey does not start on the homepage. If the website is part of a larger group of sites (e.g. online news sites are usually part of a larger organisation), traffic can be recirculated from other sites within the ecosystem.

Revenue

As revenue equals price multiplied by volume, an attractive commercial proposition is needed to justify a good price. Having addressed the volume side, let's consider price. Alongside a strong brand proposition and high reach, this can be achieved by sophisticated advertising formats and interactive branded content sections.

To summarise, it is important for a premium content web destination to scale their audience. Not only will a subscale audience mean that there is less web inventory to sell, it also means there are additional demands on Sales and Client Services teams. As well as being a harder sell, not being a 'must have' on the agency/client media plan means that commercial teams are expected to bend rules and adhere to quicker turnaround times when launching media campaigns.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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