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Content monetization explained

Posted 5 years ago by Skimlinks

To start, let’s talk about content monetization at its simplest: publishers making money from the content they create. Quality differentiated content is the commodity that publishers bring to market: it is why people buy their magazines and newspapers, and why they consume content online on their websites or through their smartphones. And since the advent of the internet, the focus for publishers has been how they can make money from their content, since the “free internet” traditionally has precluded them charging for the information they offer out to people. 

Advertising of course is the longest running and most obvious form of content monetization. And in the beginning it had only the most noble of intentions. The first adverts were actually signposts guiding people to their destination and that should have informed how adverts work. In practice however, helpful online adverts mutated from banner ads into intrusive pop-ups and a way for brands to gather an unhealthy amount of personal data on individuals online.  

Fortunately, after the passage of a few laws around the world, the industry has begun to get its act together. Advertising is now focused on new formats, especially what’s called native adverts and sponsored content. Here content is literally monetized, as publishers take up front payment to create content promoting a product or brand to readers, with the fact articles are monetized clearly disclosed by the inclusion of “sponsored” or advertising disclaimers to publications. With 10% of publishers now planning for a future “with little or no digital advertising”, the imperative to explore alternative ways of making money from content is on the increase. 

The equivalent of buying a magazine on the street is throwing up a paywall. Many prominent publications charge for access to articles, the logic being that the content they provide is unique enough that people will pay for it. It is a gamble (if your content isn’t differentiated enough you aren’t going to make any money) but the best publishers can make a lot of money from this. 

A twist on this theme is micropayments. Publishers such as The Guardian don’t throw up a paywall, but instead ask for donations on their articles. These can range from annual donations, to donations per article, but they don’t ask for payment up front. They trust that if people value content enough and have an excellent enough experience, they will invest in the publication and keep it alive. 

A newer stream might be termed “participation”. This has existed in print for a while, in terms of publishers creating itineraries for vacations for their readers, and using their expert insight into travel to create memorable experiences for readers. More recently, publications have launched their own event series, using the credibility and perspectives of their brands to attract speakers and host events that people are willing to pay for. TimeOut drove 400k event ticket transactions in 2017 and Thrillist had a dedicated 8-person team that creates events to engage readers. Content is the key to monetization here, as without the articles and perspectives a publisher provides, readers are unlikely to make the considerably larger investment in attending an event organized by the brand. Equally the content also serves as the key to attract people to events. 

But, when Skimlinks talks about “content monetization” we actually mean publishers making money from their content in the truest sense. Specifically, by earning commissions on sales their product-related or “commerce content” is responsible for on retailers’ websites. This commerce content is all powered by a technology called affiliate marketing, which rewards publishers for the role they play in inspiring sales. 

It monetizes content publishers have created since time immemorial, ensuring they are rightfully rewarded for the products they recommend to their readers. 

Leading publishers including Conde Nast, Hearst, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and more monetize their content in many different ways and having a diverse mix of streams is key now. All those publishers and 60,000 more trust Skimlinks to power their commerce content. You can start your own commerce journey today by signing up for Skimlinks and learn more through the content here on our blog. 

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