Earlier in this series, we talked about treating content as an asset. In reality, content may represent an asset for a number of reasons: because it’s evergreen and can be repurposed into other forms; because it’s time-critical and extremely viral, sparking conversation and attracting new users; because it’s unique and can only be found on your blog … the list goes on.
We all know the standard on-site means of monetising blog content: through advertising programs, affiliate programs, and so on — Darren’s written about them in detail. Here, I’d like to look at some of the other ways you can get more out of your existing — and evolving — content inventory.
When we discussed content strategy earlier in this series, we talked about the importance of having a grip on your content inventory so that you can achieve the best possible return on your investment in content.
How can you achieve that ROI? There are many options. In fact, as we’ll see, being creative about your monetisation strategy really can pay off.
To get you in the mood, take a look at the blog of illustrator and artist James Jean (Warning, artistic nude drawings there). Check his store to see some innovative approaches to the concept of “content monetisation”.
Whitepapers and Ebooks
Whitepapers, reports, and ebooks are established means by which to repackage quality content you’ve published on your blog into new, cost-effective formats. But don’t forget physical products, either — it works for James Jean, and it could work for you, too.
Before you begin, consider existing competition in the space — if leaders in your field release quality research or insight free, you’ll have to do something different, and do it well, if your audience is going to pay for your offering. Simply republishing a selection of your current blog content as an ebook won’t cut it. Augmenting that content, as a basic platform from which you can provide a range of value-adds, tools, and philosophies, might.
If you’re constantly immersed in your area of interest, you’re likely to come across information that, while it makes for good blog posts, also fuels your creative fire. It might start you innovating and exploring, and the resulting insights and experiences may generate new content or new perspectives that can augment and extend your existing content in other formats.
Products like these are usually most successful if you can provide solid practical value, unique insights, and compelling evidence. Don’t neglect to give your customers a means to assess the information for themselves, independently, as well as under your guidance. Interpret the results of your research in a paid report, by all means — but provide the raw data to allow users to conduct their own analysis, too.
Paywalls and Subscriptions
We’ve all heard about the News Corp decision to charge for access to its news sites — a plan that’s now going ahead in the UK and USA. Although opinion is divided over charging for web news, many blogs offer premium subscriptions that provide access to suites of value-added content such as research and interpretation, or deep insight and opinion. The free GigaOm network does this with its GigaOm Pro subscription service. Subscription services may also take in alternative media formats, such as videos or podcasts, that aren’t available through the free area of the blog.
Subscriptions won’t work for all blog types — expert content on business and academic topics seems to be one area in which paywalls have proven successful, but the average hobby blogger may have trouble justifying this tactic to an audience that can obtain parallel content free of charge elsewhere. If you do go ahead with a paywall, you’ll have to think carefully about how you’ll communicate the value of a subscription to your readers: will you offer a free trial? A demo? Will you let users pay on a weekly or monthly basis, or have them purchase a longer period, perhaps at a discount?
Users are already skeptical of paywalls and subscriptions. They can work, but usually they’re best left to the larger players who can afford to take such risks.
Content Syndication that Pays
An interesting alternative to the online news paywall approach has been developed by the UK’s Guardian news organisation. The Guardian is launching a service that allows others to syndicate Guardian stories free of charge — with the caveat that the content must appear as provided, and that includes an advertisement.
Syndicating your blog’s content with automatically-included inline ads may not be an option just yet. But are there other forms of “syndication” you can use? Could you arrange to republish selected posts regularly in another industry publication — perhaps in print — for payment?
Reselling your posts can be tricky, since you don’t want to dilute your brand or readership. By the same token, a well-planned strategy can serve to build your audience and your income. For example, you might syndicate time-critical content to other publications for a payment, but publish timeless, evergreen content, posts that build and engage community, and articles that provide great educational value, exclusively on your own blog.
Finding outlets that will pay to republish your posts may be a challenge, particularly while you’re still establishing your foothold in your chosen space, but as the Problogger income split posts prove, the small steps — and approaches that aggregate a range of income sources — really do add up.
What techniques have you used to monetise your content?
Continue reading this series of articles on questions surrounding blog content.
About the Author: Georgina has more than ten years’ experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. She now blogs for WebWorkerDaily and SitePoint, and consults on content to a range of other clients.