|Publishers continue to evolve beyond display advertising to fuel their digital brands. Startups and established media companies alike are experimenting with new ways to diversify their digital revenue. Here are three examples of how publishers are innovating.
1. Monetising public data
We've written about how publishers can harness big data for better insights about their audience and their markets. There's also an opportunity to tap into the deep well of publicly available data for new subscription-based digital products.
That's the concept behind Skift, a new venture from paidContent founder Rafat Ali. Skift bills itself as a "travel intelligence media company" offering a mix of news, analysis and data for the travel industry. The data analysis will be the key element that differentiates Skift from a traditional media site. From Wired:
Skift is building what Ali calls the world's largest repository of publicly availably travel information. "In the United States, every state has to report monthly and quarterly tourism numbers, and airports report departure and arrival times," Ali says. "We will take this information - most of which lives in Excel spreadsheets right now - filter and clean the data so it's easy to parse."
... Once Skift has compiled enough data, it plans to build APIs for other apps to access the data. Skift plans to build services on top of the data to provide paid reports and specific travel analytics.
Not sure where to look for public data? Try tools such as the Google Public Data Explorer, or the list of US Government XML Data Sources. There's also an extensive directory of public data sets on Quora. There's bound to be something that's relevant to your target audience. The key is providing insight and packaging that makes the data easy to view, manipulate, and share.
2. Live streaming
Not everyone has the resources to launch a live video show (Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times) or a streaming radio station (Boston.com's RadioBDC, which launched this week), but that doesn't mean you should ignore the streaming media wave.
Consumers are certainly warming up to watching live events on their desktop and mobile devices. The BBC said the majority of video requests on its website and internet TV channels for the London Olympics were for streams of live events.
Publishers can't replicate the Olympics, but they can live-stream conferences or offer regularly scheduled podcasts or webcasts featuring editors or guests. This type of "appointment viewing" is becoming more commonplace, enabled by better bandwidth and more advanced mobile devices that enable on-the-go consumption.
If you really want to diversify into rich media, consider partnering with a traditional broadcast or radio outlet. BuzzFeed announced this week that it is launching a new radio program on Sirius. Here's how Ad Age describes "BuzzFeed Radio":
Hosted by BuzzFeed editors Jack Moore and Whitney Jefferson, [BuzzFeed Radio] will discuss the week's big viral hits, explore how they were created and share reactions to them. The show will air live on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. EST and play again Wednesday mornings and evenings.
Even trade journals can venture into cable and broadcast TV. Farm Journal Media, for example, produces daily and weekly syndicated programs such as AgDay and US Farm Report.
3. Paid (ad-free) communities
The concept of paying for ad-free access to websites is not new, but the movement is now extending into social platforms. Exhibit A: the launch of the crowd-funded App.net as a paid alternative to Twitter. The thinking is that audiences are willing to pay for access to an environment that not only is uncluttered by advertising but is also is not influenced by the demands of advertisers - a current flashpoint for both Twitter and Facebook purists.
"Free is a great idea, until free leads to a conflict between those contributing attention and those contributing cash," Seth Godin wrote in a recent blog post. A paid Twitter offering could disrupt social media the way HBO disrupted broadcast TV, Godin says:
Viewers are not the customer of the TV networks-advertisers are. For a long time, those two groups had similar goals, though. Advertisers wanted lots of viewers and viewers wanted shows that lots of them wanted to watch. So the TV networks used ratings as a proxy for advertiser happiness and there wasn't much of a problem. ...
HBO turns this upside down. The viewers ARE the customer. HBO can program with confidence, because there's no question about who they are working for.
Entrepreneur Dalton Caldwell is the force behind App.net, which began as a community for mobile developers but is now morphing into something broader - a "real-time social feed without the ads." Caldwell writes:
Why isn't there an opportunity to pay money to get an ad-free feed from a company where the product is something you pay for, not, well, you. To be clear: I'm glad there are ad-supported options, but why does that seem like the only option? ... I have no interest in completely opting-out of the social web. But please, I want a real alternative to advertising hell... I would gladly pay for a service that treats me better.
"If we're selling a service, our customers are our users, and our job is to make the users happy," Caldwell said in a video (below) introducing the service. "If we have a free ad-supported service, our customers are advertisers, and our job is to make the advertisers happy. A lot of the friction we're seeing from [other] disappointing services is just a reflection that the financial incentive goes to pleasing advertisers."
Would your audience - or a segment of that audience - be willing to pay for an ad-free environment in which they are the customer, and not the product? For many publishers - especially enthusiast and B2B brands - the answer is probably yes.