How to Diversify Your Magazine Publishing Portfolio with Events, Courses & Books

Multiplatform publishers are finding ways to turn magazine publishing into a profitable business model once again


If there’s one thing you might know about us, it’s that we think publishers should have multiple revenue streams. In investing, it’s called having a diversified portfolio. As Canadian portfolio manager Pat McKeough (also a client), would say, a good diversified portfolio should include well-established companies that are spread out across most—if not all—of the five main economic sectors (Manufacturing & Industry; Resources & Commodities; the Consumer sector; Finance; Utilities). We think that publishers can benefit in a similar way by diversifying their multiplatform portfolio and launching other types of content models, like events, online courses, and books.


How multiplatform magazine publishers can benefit from events

The appeal of hearing, seeing, and speaking with actual people and touching real-life objects has never gone away, and thus the event business is not only surviving, but thriving in an otherwise digital era.

Unlike subscription-based business models, event content business models are retail websites that are purely transactional, and must be paired with a content-rich portal subscription website to attract traffic.

Our longtime client and fellow Boston-based organization, the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, is an excellent mentor site for anyone launching a niche media event site.

PON has offered courses on negotiation and mediation for many years, ranging in length from one day to a complete semester. However, in 2009, at the height of the recession, PON was forced to cut back the number of its programs in the hope of increasing the number of participants. Both attendance and revenues continued to decline, however.

It was the addition of a well-designed event website — as part of the introduction of the Mequoda Method — that pulled PON back to prosperity. By adding a portal, the cost of marketing via direct mail was 32% of the budget; today, their total marketing spend is a mere 7%.

How multiplatform magazine publishers can benefit from courses

Years ago, many publishers thrived by producing loose-leaf print training services that were typically membership-based. Today, those print training products have been replaced by the course website business model, now with the ability to not only produce their own training videos and other 21st-century materials, but to create custom portals for corporations to produce their materials and upload them.

If a publisher has a course content business model, they may create a single course or collection of lessons or activities that the user can mix and match to create his or her own course. However, the publishing frequency, unlike a magazine, could be relatively low.

Niche publishers have a great opportunity in learning since the kind of information these audiences need is not provided widely. Consumers increasingly turn to trusted brands and publishers to find the information that can make a difference for them professionally or personally.

Leadercast has a robust premium course content business model called Leadercast Now in which members can watch short videos of respected world leaders from all walks of life and business discussing strategies, techniques, and principles of leadership. Course membership products like Leadercast Now typically provide members with the ability to track videos they’ve watched, videos they plan to watch, and their own progress at executing a range of hands-on exercises to reinforce learning.

How multiplatform magazine publishers can benefit from book sales

A book website is built to sell a catalog of multiplatform books and reports. The interesting thing about the book website business model is this: The largest online retailer in the world started out as a bookstore. For those of you old enough to remember, Amazon has not always been the unchallenged retail king of the internet, selling everything from air conditioners to Ziploc bags. But now Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer by revenue. What we now think of as the most futuristic, virtual retail company of all time got its start using the internet to sell good old-fashioned print books.

As a magazine publisher, you may not be focusing on books, but we have several clients who have such large subscriber lists that every time they promote a book to their promotional list, they can count on instant profits, sometimes in the thousands of dollars, because the books are delivered digitally.

Books are a one-time cost to create, and when delivered digitally, can generate revenue without any more added effort. The production of a book can be anywhere from a thousand dollars (smaller white papers) to thousands of dollars (full length handbooks), but we also have clients who sell $10 ebooks that are 25-50 pages.

Does this sound like something you could benefit from? Is there a series or column from your magazine you could easily repurpose? Content recycling can come in really handy for this business model.

Amazon, of course, needs practically no introduction, it’s the world’s largest online retailer by revenue. However, a niche publisher example is University Health News, who maintains a health report library and offers annual updates at a reduced cost.


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