The Portal Content Business Model Turns Strangers Into Subscribers

All multiplatform publishers should have a portal content business model to pair with their premium content models

The Portal Content Business Model Turns Strangers Into Subscribers

A portal content business model is a free subscription website that aggregates content from multiple sources. Portals are intended to build and feed an audience; they are specifically designed for organic SEO marketingemail marketing, list building, and lead generation. Portals publish content for free in a blog-like format, and give away free products in exchange for an email address. The names collected through the portal content business model are used to increase revenue through a magazine content business model and other content business models like events, books, and courses.

By far the most widely used subscription website content business model, portals generate value from both the users and the sponsors.

When a publisher is ad-driven, sponsors pay money while users pay not with money (usually all portal content is free) but with time and information. They spend time viewing web pages, emails, and RSS feeds, thus creating advertising inventory that can be used to sell the publisher’s products (internal advertising) and/or sold to third party sponsors (external advertising) on a CPM (cost per thousand), CPC (cost per click), CPA (cost per action), or other sponsorship basis.

Subscription website portals are popular online business models because not only can they be profitable on their own with ads, but they’re also intended to build and feed an audience for affiliated premium subscription websites. It’s a Mequoda best practice to build a portal for every subscription website we create.

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Yahoo.com is an example we often refer to as a major well-known Portal. But most publishers interested in launching a portal website are not looking to create anything remotely near the size of a Portal site like Yahoo. Rather, they tend to post bylined content derived from the publisher’s own publications and other inside sources to supplement bits of relevant content pulled or syndicated from outside sources, including contributors and other subscription websites.

The outside sources may receive compensation from the publisher or may simply be looking to generate increased traffic through links back to their own websites.

A portal is also designed to maximize online advertising inventory. To do that, the most successful portals treat registered and unregistered users differently. For the unregistered user, a significant portion of the website page template is allocated to converting visitors into registered users, that is, to collect email addresses from new visitors.

For example, a Mequoda best practice is to serve these new site visitors a floater ad (cousin to a pop-up ad, but floaters avoid ad-blockers) offering a free report download on a topic related to the search term that brought the user to the site in the first place, in exchange for registration and an email address.

Once a user has registered, the portal morphs to display content that is personalized for the user. Personalized content enhances user satisfaction and increases page views and time spent – the key advertising conversion rates that drive website revenue for the many information marketers who use their advertising inventory to sell their own products.

State-of-the-art portal subscription websites offer users email newsletters, blogs, email alerts, and RSS feeds that are all designed to directly and indirectly generate more page views and website revenue.

Characteristics of a portal content business model

A portal has a number of individual characteristics, some of which it shares with other free website models.

Who pays: Sponsors – whether that’s a third party or the portal publisher itself – pay for all content on portals, which is free to registered users. This is the same as lead generation and directory sites.

MIU: The portal’s minimum information unit (MIU) is a post. Posts may be written by various authors associated with the publisher, as they usually are on niche media sites, or by syndicated content providers as is the norm on mass media sites.

Frequency: Content on a portal is updated constantly.

User-Generated Content: A portal may have some user-generated content, but mostly the content comes from the publisher or syndicated sources.

Authors: There are many authors at a portal, including the publisher’s own staff and contributing sources.

Browse/Search: The portal is organized to be searched by its users.

Home Page: With frequently updated content, a portal’s home page can deliver what’s new, as at a news site, or what’s popular, like why honey bees have been dying, and other topics users are most interested in. In Mequoda land, we always encourage our clients to consult their Google Visibility Report to find out what their readers are most often looking for. And, of course, to balance that with significant evergreen content.

Video: The portal may or may not have videos onsite.

Remember, the portal is Mequoda’s go-to website archetype for all our clients, to support SEO, drive traffic, and generate space to promote either premium content or free content in exchange for email addresses.

Over the past two decades, we’ve guided more than 300 niche publishers through the process of transforming themselves from legacy print publishers into multiplatform operations that often dominate their industry niche and generate operating margins that surpass those created by their legacy print business. Learn more about how we can help you apply these strategies to your publishing business by scheduling a FREE consultation today.

Do you have a portal website? Do you agree that it’s a profitable archetype or have any other insights about it? Tell me what you think in the comments!

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