An Introduction to the Four Best Alternative Revenue Streams for Media Sites

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This article is a part of our series on the four best alternative revenue streams for media platforms. Keep an eye out for our soon to be published white paper: The Four Key Alternate Revenue Streams for Content Platforms that provides a detailed analysis of these four categories.

The Current Online Media Landscape

Content publishing has modernized, digitized and popularized. It’s the age of media platforms and blogs, online magazines, video-streaming sites and platforms like BuzzFeed that seem to do it all, abound.

But as varied at their mission statements and individual content might be; the reality is that each of their lifespans hinges as much on creating quality content as it does on generating steady income.

At the same time, the online monetary playing field is changing. With click-through rates on traditional display ads at an all time low, getting creative with your revenue streams is crucial to getting and staying profitable.

We’ve surveyed the digital landscape and identified the four main creative revenue streams for today’s media platforms. To build a recurring revenue strategy and generate sustainable income, knowing which best fit your platform and content is key.

The 4 categories go as follows:

1. Selling your Advertising Space Creatively to Generate Passive Income:

Think of your media platform as real estate. The higher your traffic volume, the higher the chances that you will be perceived as prime online real estate. As more and more advertising budgets are focused on online each year, high traffic will ensure that brands pay a lot of money to rent your space.

Advertising is a passive revenue stream that works best for digital newspapers, magazines and blogs. But to make sure you drive income in, you need to get creative with how you sell your space. A great example is homepage takeovers, where you essentially give your homepage over to a brand to creatively integrate their content or campaign.

There are no rules set in stone when it comes to advertising, but to generate passive income for your media platform, you need to identify the formats, brands and pricing schemes that work best for your content and your audience.

2. Sell your Content Cleverly and Expand
your Reach:

If you’re a digital newspaper, magazine or blog, you’re producing original content.

This is similar to a small organic heirloom tomatoes farm somewhere in upstate New York, which in essence is also producing something original. Now, this farm could build a global cult following – but to do so, it needs to work with the right businesses and the people so that its reputation grows beyond its small town and reaches international tastemakers.

Think of your content-producing platform in the same way. To generate revenue you need exposure and for that, you need to collaborate with the right people, platforms and businesses.

Joining a publishing network, such as The Vice Network or Slate Group’s podcasting network is effective. The same goes for selling your content. Content syndication can do wonders for your platform’s visibility.

But in both cases, making smart agreements with the right brands is crucial - you don’t want to end up becoming an unknown wholesaler to a commercial supermarket chain.

3 – Sell Products Wisely and Develop your Business:

If you have a media platform that’s up and running with a loyal audience, expanding your offering with product sales, payable content or lead generation is not as drastic or far-fetched as you may think.

For example, multimedia content powerhouse BuzzFeed publishes extremely popular listicles with a tendency to go viral. BuzzFeed capitalized on this insight to create listicles such as “10 products you didn’t know you needed”, linking its captive audience to external products for purchase, which the site then collects a sales-percentage on.

Now this works exceptionally well for BuzzFeed because it’s able to create value around these products through its content. Whether it’s recommended products or subscriptions to exclusive content, you will require an equally deep understanding of your users’ needs, interests and what they are willing to pay for.

4 – Sell your Expertise and Reinforce your Positioning as an Opinion Leader:

If you’ve built a reputation as a go-to source for specific content, be it in niche music or food reviews, you can creatively generate revenue by repackaging your key proficiency.

Expanding into events has proven to be a natural fit for news and tech-related media publishers. Case in point is the New Yorker Festival, created by the New Yorker magazine. It’s also a great way to generate alternate revenue through ticket sales and build lasting sponsorships

Providing services is another way to leverage your expertise and monetize it. Vice effectively made this transition and now offers in-house creative services as well as a consumer insights and other market research-related services.

The key here is not only identifying what expertise you can repackage to generate alternate income, but also which makes sense for your brand’s growth, audience and stakeholders.


If you’re interested in learning all the details about each alternate revenue streams and finding out which is the right one for your media platform, stay tuned for our soon to be published white paper that delves deeper into the subject.

Catch up on the rest of the 4 Best Alternative Revenue Streams for Media Sites series:

Maya Kourchid

An energetic and award-winning copywriter and conceptualiser, with a strong background in journalism, editorial writing, content creation and consultancy. Her writing has appeared in regional and international publications from Courier International to CNN.com, while her creative work has been recognized by the Cannes Lions, D&AD, New York Festivals, Dubai Lynx and many more.
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