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The Portal Content Business Model Turns Strangers Into Subscribers

Portals are seen most often because not only are they a profitable model on their own, they’re also intended to build and feed an audience for affiliated premium subscription websites. They are specifically designed for SEO, email marketing, list building, lead generation and building engagement and loyalty. It’s a Mequoda best practice to build a

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 digital 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, or audience development portals to be more specific, 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 on another 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 their 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 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, 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 video content.

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.

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!

Find out the CMS features that publishers require to manage an online publishing business. Download a FREE copy of 7 Ways Haven Wordpress Goes Beyond Wordpress, and discover the features all publishers should have access to for a bigger audience, greater revenue, and higher profits.

By Kim Mateus

Chief Strategy Officer

Kim Mateus is Chief Strategy Officer for Mequoda Systems and the Mequoda Systems Content Network where she oversees strategic planning for the organization's 200 plus premium subscription products. Over the past decade, she has guided the development of more than 20 subscription marketing systems including I Like Crochet Network, New England Network and Your AAA Network. She and her team maintain an exhaustive best practices database of subscription marketing techniques and business processes that she uses to advise her clients and optimize the more than 60 websites that make up the Mequoda Systems Content Network. Kim is a frequent speaker at industry events and serves on the board of the Specialized information Publishers Association.

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