Content providers today are struggling to find a revenue model that works for them. There are a variety of ways that news organizations, publications and other content providers can make money. These include advertising, corporate underwriting, foundation funding, article syndication, events, affiliate programs, merchandise, and sales of additional products such as books or white papers. Increasingly, however, publishers and other content providers are turning to direct revenue.
What’s Direct Revenue?
Rather than relying exclusively on advertising (once the model for most online content), more companies are turning directly to readers or site users to fund them, and creating a mix of direct and non-direct revenue. There are three types of direct revenue, according to Elizabeth Hansen and Emily Goligoski writing for Columbia Journalism Review. They include donation, subscription and membership.
- A donation model encourages audiences to give their time or money to an institution in support of a common cause or common values. Donation conveys a charitable relationship.
- A subscription model requires audiences to pay money to get access to a product or service. Subscription conveys an ongoing transactional relationship.
- A membership model invites audiences to give their time, money, connections, professional expertise, distribution to their networks, and/or ideas to support a cause they believe in. Membership represents two-way knowledge exchange between journalists and members.
When Is Subscription the Best Choice?
A subscription model can work best for media or content outlets providing highly specialized information that readers can’t find anywhere else. (In other words, if you’re laying out celebrity gossip, don’t count on readers to pay for something they can find easily elsewhere.)
“For publications with subject-area or region-specific journalism and a strong audience base in their coverage areas, a product-based subscription offering can work,” wrote Hansen and Goigoski. “If readers, listeners, and/or viewers see a site’s news and analysis as providing enough unique value, subscription might be a viable revenue strategy. A subscription strategy can work especially well for publications with strong institutional audiences in specific industries and when subscribers’ employers can pay the cost of work-relevant media.”
A Platform for Managing Direct Revenue
To get the most out of adding direct revenue to your income mix, look for a subscription management platform that’s easy to use (for subscribers) and easy to manage (for you). Subscription DNA is a software-as-a-service platform that allows users to integrate subscription billing, subscription management, paywalls and authentication in one place. It can help you avoid rookie mistakes and optimize your pricing model for your subscriptions (by offering multiple tiers, for example).
Managed properly, a direct revenue channel added to your existing indirect revenue mix can significantly boost your income, allowing you to provide better and more in-depth content to customers willing to pay for it.