Why your publication’s losing revenue (+ 4 ways to fix it)

    Last updated: May 13, 2024

    Are you struggling to generate sufficient revenue for your publication? In this article, we’ll explore four common reasons why your publication might be falling short financially and provide effective solutions to overcome these challenges. Discover valuable insights and practical strategies to boost your publication’s revenue and thrive in today’s competitive media landscape. 

    Why Your Publication’s Losing Revenue (+ 4 Ways to Fix It)

    1. You’re not getting enough paid subscribers  

    If you’re having revenue issues, chances are that your subscription numbers are stalling out — or dropping. Below are some surefire ways to boost your subscription rates:  

    Make sure your content is relevant  

    After decades of reading digital content for free, many people are reluctant to start paying for it. To get subscriptions from this group, you need to prove your publication’s value for them, individually, at first encounter.  

    Master subscription models: 9 Proven tactics to skyrocket retention & revenue:

    As a starting point, consult your website tracking activity and CDP data to ensure that you’re covering the topics your audience cares about most.  

    From there, use on-site personalizations and content recommendations to guide individual website visitors to the articles they’re most likely to enjoy, based on their previous browsing and purchase activity. Personalized recommendations alone can increase your time on site, repeat visits and ultimately subscriptions: 18% of people who click a Content Recommendation module on Omeda client sites go on to click two or more links. 

    Offer personalized subscription options 

    Personalizing content to individual readers entices them to read — and tailoring your subscription options to them will encourage them to pay for it, too.  Using your website and subscription data, look to create different subscription bundles (or “build your own bundles”) that align with your target subscribers’ biggest interests.  

    2. You’re not monetizing your content effectively  

    Maybe you’ve got a lot of traffic and even a lot of repeat visitors, but the revenue’s not keeping pace. If you’re in this situation, consider how you can monetize more of your content. More on that below:

    Implement paywalls or metered access models

    Not getting enough bang for your content buck? Consider placing some (or all) of your content behind a paywall.   

    If your content is strong (and distinctive) enough, this alone can yield new subscriptions: According to the American Press Institute’s Media Insights Project, 47% of new subscribers sign up after running out of free articles on a site they like and respect.  

    However, paywalls can just as easily push potential subscribers away if they’re not implemented thoughtfully. Some factors to consider as you plan your paywall:  

    1. Choose between a soft meter or hard paywall: First, decide how many articles visitors will be able to read for free before “charging” them for additional access. There are two important variables to consider here: Some people will be reluctant to pay for a subscription before they’ve previewed a representative sample of your content — but leave too much content free and they won’t be incentivized to buy at all.  

    So as you introduce your meter, experiment with different access levels. Legacy news providers like The New York Times and The Atlantic offer readers two “free” articles per month whereas The Wall Street Journal requires readers to pay before reading anything.   

    You can also try different display options for your meters. Some publications like The Atlantic allow visitors to read a paragraph or two of a metered article before it’s blocked by the meter message. Others, like WSJ, leave only one sentence visible for non-subscribers. For best results, try different display options to see what yields the most conversions.

    2. What kind of content should be placed behind a paywall?: Next, decide what types of content should be open to everyone and what should be metered. Best practice is to meter content that’s truly distinctive — proprietary research, expert insights and other highly tactical advice that your readers can’t find via a standard Google search. (Check out more best practices on gated content here.)

    3. What audiences should I target with a meter? You need to have someone’s trust to earn their business — and that’s often a long-term game. And if you block someone’s access to your content too early, they might not ever come back for more.

    You can avoid this by triggering meters for specific audience segments, like visitors from TikTok who have engaged with 3 other articles.

    On Omeda, you can target custom audiences with a meter, like all known website visitors, members of an ongoing marketing automation campaign, or specific audience segments like “all audience development managers.”   

    Develop premium content offerings and subscriptions 

    Not ready to implement a hard paywall yet? Rather than taking away access from those who don’t pay, consider adding content and services for those who do. This way, readers will see your subscription as an add-on to something they already love, rather than a necessity for maintaining access.

    Your specific add-ons will depend on your publication: You could provide first-look access to exclusive industry research, interviews or podcasts. Or you can offer subscribers access to relevant experiential opportunities, like access to exclusive networking circles, VIP packages at your events, or access to AMA-style consulting opportunities (This is especially effective if you’re running a B2B publication).   

    Optimize for mobile  

    While websites still deliver the most audience members, mobile users tend to be more engaged, according to Poool’s State of Digital Publishing Report. To maximize participation (and subscriptions), ensure that your publication, associated newsletters and subscription pages are all fully optimized for mobile (and that they appear in both standard and dark mode).  

    3. You’re not giving your advertisers enough ROI   

    Revenue comes from two key places: your paid subscriptions and your advertising income. So let’s focus on the other side of that coin: your advertising strategy.

    If you can’t consistently generate and prove positive ROI for your advertisers, you’re stuck relying on a constant stream of one-time advertisers rather than getting a steady stream of income. This doesn’t just create cash flow issues — it demands additional resources that could be spent on content development.  

    Does that sound too familiar? Try these techniques to retain and attract your advertisers:  

    Provide omni-channel exposure  

    The Marketing Rule of 7 states that a prospect needs to “hear” the advertiser’s message at least 7 times before they’ll take action to buy that product or service. Sure, you could wait for someone to read seven of your case studies before they finally decide to convert. Or you could speed up that process by targeting them on multiple channels at once.  

    That’s the logic behind omni-channel ad packages: The more exposure you give your ad partners, the more likely they’ll reach your audience in the places they want to engage. In an increasingly fragmented media landscape, this will become even more important moving forward.   

    So how can you implement this without overworking your marketing team? If you’re using an end-to-end audience management platform, you can pull in data from your CDP and use it to execute campaigns across email, Facebook Ads, and your website. Then you can evaluate and replicate those campaigns all in one place.   

    4. You’re spending too much money on admin   

    The profit equation has two key elements: maximizing revenue and minimizing costs. So far, we’ve focused on the former. Now let’s hone in on the latter. Before overhauling your entire content strategy, evaluate your current workflows and budget to see where you can save extra time and money.   

    Optimizing one of these areas won’t balance your budget by itself, but improvements in several of them will add up over time — and give you room for error as you experiment with new initiatives.  

    Here’s where to start:   

    Evaluate your tech costs 

    From email and website tracking to data management, subscription billing, payment and content metering tools, it takes more tech than ever to run a publication. There has two big implications for publishers.   

    First, evaluate new social media and distribution platforms critically. FOMO might convince you to try that trendy new platform “to see what happens” (see: every lukewarm, low-engagement corporate TikTok in your feed). But for every Duolingo that goes supernova on TikTok, there are 50 or 100 other companies that never find their audience due to audience mismatch or a foundational lack of brand alignment.

    That’s not to say you shouldn’t experiment with new platforms. But if there’s a fundamental mismatch between your content and the channel’s vibe, even the best content won’t generate the ROI you need.  

    Second: Ruthlessly evaluate your own workflows. How much time does your team spend sending audience data between platforms? Or cleaning, manipulating and clearing it of duplicates? Do your email campaigns always get delayed because you’re waiting on that spreadsheet of new subscribers… for two weeks? That’s a lot of lost time better spent on revenue-generating tasks. Sound familiar? Consider ways to streamline your tech stack and combine multiple functions into one platform  

    Streamline your workflows by embracing automation 

    By automating your subscription management and billing process, you can spend less time and money managing your existing customers’ subscriptions — and spend more time getting new ones.  

    Some important features to consider in a subscription management solution include:  

    • Product and print fulfillment  
    • Digital fulfillment 
    • Entitlement management 
    • Credit card processing and national change of address verification 
    • Auto-renewal services 
    • Content metering  
    • Integrations with email and marketing automation tools, so that you can easily send and automate renewal reminders, payment failure notifications, welcome emails — and prevent costly involuntary churns  
    • Integrations with data management tools — like a customer data platform — so you can easily view and query your subscribers based on their level of engagement, date of last engagement, payment history, order volume, and more. Use this to re-engage at-risk subscribers or better yet, identify promising cross- and up-sell opportunities 

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