Magazine Content Monetization: How Smart Publishers Turn Content into Cash

How magazine content monetization has gotten more profitable, if you publish it in the right places


Something we know from talking to niche publishers at the industry events we speak at, and during our own CEO Institute, is 99% of magazine publishers are giving away 100% of their content and not separating their free portal content from their premium magazine content through a magazine subscription website. It’s an incredibly simple concept, but almost nobody but us does it. Pair it with poor a content monetization strategy on the free portal and that’s how magazines go out of business.

What almost every publisher has is a free portal. Look at the homepage of any magazine, and you’re likely looking at what we refer to as a portal. Portals are seen most often online because most publishers believe that once content is published in print, it should automatically be published for free online.

It’s true, the more free content you publish, the more traffic you get. In theory, with proper conversion architecture you could convert those free visitors into paid subscribers. Unfortunately it’s not that simple. And why would anyone pay for your magazine when you’re giving away the content cow for free?

First, premium content shouldn’t be automatically recycled into a free portal, or you risk losing your paid subscribers. Instead, a portal is intended to build and feed an audience for an affiliated magazine subscription website where paid subscribers can read digital editions online. Portals are specifically designed for organic SEO marketing, email marketing, list building, lead generation and building engagement and loyalty. It’s a Mequoda best practice to build a portal for every subscription website we create.

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Three to six months after your magazine is on newsstands, that premium content can surely get broken up and harvested for your portal, but not while subscribers are picking up the issues on their doorsteps. Instead, content monetization can be amplified if it remains premium content with your subscription website.

A magazine subscription website model is set up to sell subscriptions for a related print or digital magazine and to provide access to issues of the magazine.

A website is only a magazine website if the user can view or download an issue of a magazine—one that is linear and periodic, has pages and a regular frequency, and can be viewed in HTML, downloaded as a PDF or downloaded to a mobile device.

Many people refer to any website that carries a legacy magazine brand and magazine content as a magazine subscription website; however, if the content is not organized in a magazine format and issues cannot be viewed or downloaded, it doesn’t meet the basic criteria of being a magazine subscription website. When it comes to mentor sites, our Mequoda niche example is I Like Crochet, where Mequoda created for its innovative publisher and longtime client, Stuart Hochwert, what we believe is the first-ever actual website magazine.

However, portals have their own role in content monetization, even when the content is a few months old (and hopefully evergreen.)

Multiplatform publishers are in a great position to sell sponsorship packages that combine traditional print ad placements, digital ad placements and better opportunities for the sponsor to be part of the story.

This is a much different mindset than selling a set of ad placements on your homepage. Philosophically, we believe publishers are best served shifting the conversation away from things like impressions and more toward brand scarcity, exclusivity and alignment.

Multiplatform publishers can get the highest content monetization yield by selling multiplatform advertising packages that are built on the principles of scarcity, exclusivity and alignment and take advantage of the publisher’s multiplatform content program.

Here are the elements:

  • Sponsored content distribution
  • Portal and email extras
  • Email newsletter sponsorship – banners and text ads
  • Audited (print) magazine display ads
  • Native magazine sponsored articles
  • Social media campaigns
  • Lead generation opportunities
  • Enhanced directory listings

When your advertising revenue model includes selling sponsored content, a superior ad sponsorship package begins with the piece your sponsors crave the most and is also the part publishers have the expertise to provide – content. Sponsored content, or what some call native or custom content, presents a unique opportunity for publishers. Advertisers crave an audience to showcase their expertise, or thought leadership, and multiplatform publishers, especially those using a Mequoda portal and a magazine subscription website in addition to print and tablet versions, have the capacity to deliver a large, high-value audience.

How are you mastering content monetization for your niche publication? Let’s chat in the comments.


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