#152 — How new monetization models are transforming publishing

This week's edition includes actionable tips for beginning as a creator, examples of how publishers are starting to think differently about monetization, and a reminder of why sustainable businesses win.


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Individual creators can turn their content into a career through an increasingly varied number of ways. This edition examines how publishers creatively monetize their work, from repackaging articles into paid courses to using premium subscriptions to subsidize freely available content. Plainly, there is no one correct way to succeed in today's publishing landscape.

💯 Top picks

How to get started in the creator economy

The latest article on the Ghost blog offers readers a beginner-friendly introduction to what the creator economy is, how it works, and recommended steps for jumping into it as a creator. Although creator economy might be the internet's latest buzzword, the opportunity is very real.

Related: Is the United States a creator-friendly country?

💸 Business models

The Economist creates a new revenue stream with online courses

We think the demand for executive courses online will increase, particularly among time-poor executives and leaders who may not be able to dedicate time - or out of office days - to in-person learning.

Paid online courses are a tried and true business model for many creators. However, this story is part of a growing trend of larger, more established businesses turning their attention towards micro-credentials. Bob Cohn, president of The Economist, wrote, "an education product was a natural extension of our services." For independent publishers, it may be worth asking how the content you write could be repackaged into a digital course.

Related: The copycat advantage — The Sociology of Business

How Katy Huff sold millions of dollars in ads at The Hustle

In a recent tweet thread from The Hustle's Ethan Brooks, they share a breakdown of how the newsletter sought out advertisers for their publication. One idea which stood out from their notes was the B.A.N.T. model, a method for finding ideal advertisers. The acronym stands for:

  • Budget to afford your ads
  • Authority to make a purchase decision
  • Need to reach your audience (e.g., niche alignment)
  • Timing (aligns with a new product launch or similar opportunity).

How curated marketplaces are helping boost publisher revenue

Curated marketplaces transform the advertiser-publisher relationship from something akin to shopping at Walmart to an experience more like a members-only street market. The idea is that limited access leads to direct, long-term, financially beneficial relationships for both parties.

📝 Modern publishing

How a Southeast Asian publisher reframed its pitch to members

Pitch higher-tier membership as a way to make content accessible to people who can’t afford to sign up.

This case study of New Naratif examines how they categorized their audience into three groups (subscribers, members, donors) and then used the information gathered from interviews with each group to relaunch their entire monetization strategy. In short, they found that by offering higher-priced memberships, they could satisfy the needs of their most invested readers while subsidizing their content for a larger audience.

The local news crisis will be solved one community at a time

Many of the stories surrounding local news focus on its decline. However, rather than disappearing completely, many publications transformed into nimbler versions of their old selves. These new local endeavors are often run by a small, writer-centric team, housed in a nonprofit entity, and supported by subscriptions and donations. It's a staunch reminder that journalism didn't fail; its business model did.

Related: What is the future of work in our newsrooms?

The news organizations with the most paying subscribers

Chartr released a graphic displaying how top news organizations ranked according to their paid subscriber counts. They created the illustration to communicate why The New York Times (who is at the top of the chart with 6.1 million subscribers) wants to acquire The Athletic (which sits in fifth place with 1.2 million). Aside from these two, only four other news publications have surpassed the million-subscriber threshold.

📬 Email newsletters

Success takes more time than most will admit

The stories you should pay attention to are from people who've been at it for at least 5-10 years. They are doing the real work, and they're in it for the long haul.

In this useful reminder, creators are encouraged to take the long-term view of their projects. The media tends to highlight overnight success stories, although the contextual reality of their achievements usually tell a different story. Surviving is half the battle, which is why one of the core principles at Ghost is sustainable business models.

Related: Our image of an entrepreneur desperately needs an update

How publishers can build communities through livestreams

Are you intentionally connecting with your audience outside of your written newsletter? Jack Woodcock, Creative Strategy Lead at Twitch, commented on how creators can complement their work with livestreaming. Some of the tactics mentioned include gathering content ideas from your audience, offering deeper dives into specific topics, and using the medium as an additional revenue stream through advertising.

💻 Technology

Storytel’s partnership with Spotify unlocks the US audiobook market

Unlimited digital books subscription in the US and other mature English-language markets is not a matter of if, but when.

For the first time since its inception, Amazon's Audible may have a serious competitor entering the space. The current plan is for Spotify to offer a "parallel subscription" to their Premium offering, which gives consumers access to Storytel's audiobook library and allows authors to earn income based on how many downloads their title receives.

Related: 9 ways newsrooms can incorporate more audio in their work

YouTube can now monetize any video

The video platform recently expanded its "right to monetize" so they could run ads on all uploaded content. Previously, ads were only displayed on videos posted by creators enrolled in their partner program. On the one hand, this will likely lead to lower ad revenue for creators across the platform. But on the other, creators who run ads themselves now have access to a much bigger pool of content.

How artificial intelligence can help solve journalism’s problems

This article highlights the ways AI can support the future of journalism, such as performing complex research in seconds, hyperlocal tagging so readers can engage with only what is relevant to them, and automated monitoring of different sources so journalists can stay on top of the biggest stories. The hope is that by making more of these possibilities public, publishers will see technology as a partner, rather than a threat, in the evolving industry.

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