How to create new products and passive income from old products as a multiplatform publisher
One of the most interesting rodents on the planet is the grasshopper mouse, native to the US and Mexico, which has a bit of a superpower: it’s impervious to venom. Also, it’s a carnivore. So it dines on venomous centipedes, scorpions and snakes, and when it gets stung, it only gets stronger because the venom acts as a painkiller, rather than a, well, killer.
What would it be like if we all got stronger when attacked? I like to think that many of us do. Just look at the magazine industry. It’s easy to see who gave up, and who went on to thrive. You’ll read news reports of “the failing news media” (or wait, was that just a Trump tweet?) and declines in circulation, but then the next quarter you’ll see ad sales and digital circulation are up. It’s good to remember that all businesses have ebbs and flows.
One thing I think all publishers should take from the lesson of the grasshopper mouse, is to be impervious to the stings of these ebbs and flows by developing more passive income streams. Let the venom turn to a painkiller, so you don’t feel it when you get bit.
Creating profitable passive income streams as a multiplatform publisher
The best way to create passive income as a publisher is to create digital products. I won’t tell you that the effort it takes to recycle content across platforms is free or easy, but what I will tell you is that it’s cheap and not terribly difficult. Below are some of the most popular platforms that publishers recycle content across:
- Magazines (print and digital)
- Free Reports
- Live Events
- Online Events (webinars)
While some publishers might consider their magazine the center of their brand universe, savvy publishers consider it just one of the many platforms that they publish on. For example, content produced for The New Yorker isn’t just for the magazine, it gets turned into blogs on their website, snippets in their emails, videos, spoken through audiocasts, repurposed in issue archives, licensed through their cartoon bank, sold in their store, told out loud at their events, and finally, configured for mobile devices. Sometimes, they even create apps that only use specific content.
Anybody can create a digital magazine out of a print magazine and call it a multiplatform day accomplished, but not everybody can build a profitable business using the same content over and over again, like The New Yorker. Oh, but wait, can they? Of course they can, if they’re a grasshopper mouse.
Let’s start with your most fundamental minimum information unit, a magazine article. If you’re a legacy publisher with a big archive, you have more of these than you know what to do with. The hardest part is digitizing them, but after that, they can become:
- A blog post optimized for search
- A chapter in a book
- An entire eBook or white paper
- Chapters in an eBook or white paper
- The copy for a video blog post
- The research for an online event or live event
- Part of a membership website
- Part of an issue archive
- A social media post
- A guest post on a well-respected blog
- An authoritative post on a site like Medium
- A viral post on a site like Reddit
You might be thinking that not all of these “products” generate revenue, but I beg to differ. Any product that is created and given away for free has the potential to drive traffic and conversions to email subscribers. Email subscribers convert higher than website visitors.
But the opportunities for passive income lie in using content in chapters for digital books, your online events (and the recordings that come from them that you sell afterward), your membership website and online library. All of these products can be sold digitally, and only have a one-time cost to create, making passive income a reality.
Content business models that create passive income
Beyond products like books and magazine / newsletter subscription websites, you can generate new passive revenue streams using additional content models.
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.
- Example: 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. Members can also 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.
The directory content business has some pretty unique benefits. If executed correctly, this model can be a win-win-win for any ambitious publisher. Not many content business models can say that.
Not only is a directory a revenue stream, it can also be an engagement device on your website – and driving traffic to your website is a powerful online publishing strategy. When you have a robust directory, users can flock to your site for information that’s more specific and relevant to their needs than any Google search could deliver. And finally, as the icing on the cake, Google loves a good directory: When it’s properly tagged and optimized, it will always appear near the top in Google search rankings because Google also knows its content is valuable to its users.
Listings in a directory can be either free or, for those who want more real estate and sell copy, premium (paid). A truly robust directory can even be 100% premium; once you have enough listings to be the only game in town, you can dispense with the free listings. In either case, the more listings you have, the more credibility you have with your users and with Google. When it comes to the directory content business model, size definitely matters.
- Example: New England Network has a travel directory website called New England Traveler. Within the directory, users can select different states and select things to do within that state. To generate revenue, they accept paid listings in their directory.
Calendar websites are usually free to access and are usually free to list an event in as well, unless the calendar is managed solely by the publisher.
The content in each entry may have minimal SEO value, but they can be great generators of inbound links and referral traffic, which will certainly help search engine performance. Because of the fairly limited content, calendar website business models are best paired with another website business model that can drive traffic, of which a portal is clearly the best qualified.
The underlying revenue-generation system is therefore sponsorship. This sponsorship might be for the publisher’s products and events or for third-party products and events…and often takes the form of banners and other display advertising, either for the whole calendar or for sections of the calendar. For instance, a sponsor may wish to be visible whenever a user searches on events in a particular location or region, or for a category of events.
- Example: New England Network has a calendar website business model as a part of their network that is called the New England Planner. Like the directory, it’s free for users to browse, and sponsors can pay to gain prominent visibility in their event listings.
Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment and let us know how you’ve created new passive revenue streams for your publication.