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How media outlets can diversify their revenue, from micropayments to eBooks (and NFTs)

Five unconventional ideas from a new report by What’s New in Publishing

Ten years ago, digital media upstarts placed their bets on advertising. Today, it’s obvious that reader revenue is a more promising model. Although we don’t know which business model will dominate in 2031, it’s always a good idea for media outlets to diversify their revenue and look at new ways to earn money. 

A new report from What’s New in Publishing, authored by Professor Damian Radcliffe, looks at 50 ways the media can make money in today’s market. The Fix picked five interesting and unconventional examples – from micropayments to archives and eBooks.

1) Micropayments: payments for specific stories 

Digital subscriptions are increasingly common, but the system has a visible gap – in most cases, you can’t pay to read a specific story without subscribing to the whole publication.

It’s still hard to figure out the economics of micropayments, but there are some notable startups in this field, including Blendle and Axate (and Few¢ents). The Winnipeg Free Press, a Canadian outlet, has successfully leveraged micropayments as a way to attract subscribers.

More from The Fix: Media Insider podcast series kicks off with reader revenue deep-dive 

2) Dynamic paywalls

Instead of traditional static paywalls, publishers are increasingly using AI-powered dynamic solutions to set paywalls based on a number of factors reflecting the reader’s willingness and ability to become a paid subscriber. 

As the report notes, “different users will encounter paywalls at different times, based on a range of different metrics, which may include the type of content you’ve landed on, your location, device type and browsing history.”

More from The Fix: Dynamic paywalls: the latest must-have tool for publishers? 

3) Creating eBooks and research reports

Books and particularly eBooks are a big business opportunity for publishers, in several ways:

  • Some outlets are publishing and selling standalone books
  • Free electronic books might be an additional perk for premium subscribers (e.g. Tech Republic’s book guides)
  • eBook can be a way to showcase the publication’s most important work

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An adjacent opportunity is preparing paid research reports. Various media outlets, such as The Economist and Business Insider, have sister units focused on selling research. Some other publications make research a part of their pitch for potential paid subscribers, such as The Information preparing organizational charts.

screenshot from the What’s New in Publishing report

More from The Fix: The next big business for news publishers? Some say books 

4) Making use of the archives

Many media outlets have vast archives of content, but fewer publications are using this resource wisely. If utilised, archives can help publishers make money. 

Efforts in this space include reusing evergreen content, “selling back issues, creating anthologies of past material and making parts of the archive available to advertisers.”

Publishers also tout access to the archive as a paid subscription perk. With reader interest in archival content being robust, this method is working. 

More from The Fix: “The Coming Archival Crisis” 

5) Selling NFTs (yes, really) 

Over the past months, NFT has become a buzzword – New York Times made headlines by selling one for half a million dollars; more recently, The Economist came close to this number.

NFTs, however, have hardly been seen as a sustainable way for the media to make real money – both NYT and The Economist positioned their respectives sales as more of a journalistic experiment, with the gains donated to charity. 

Still, if NFT optimists are right, the technology has a big future, particularly as a way to give creators more artistic control over their work. Examples like a magazine launching its own NFT marketplace and a journalist funding his newsletter via NFTs prove the point.

More from The Fix: Top Ukrainian media sells NFT of their Lukashenko-Stalin print cover 

Photo by Jason D on Unsplash


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