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Research / Insights on current and emerging industry topics

Strategies for building audience revenue

February 28, 2018 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Publishers are rethinking their editorial practices and diversifying revenue streams to become less dependent on advertising or foundation funding. They (especially digitally native publishers) are implementing mixed revenue approaches, which include advertising, corporate underwriting, foundation funding, article syndication, events, affiliate programs, merchandise, and book sales revenue. The newly released report, Guide to Audience Revenue and Engagement from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, provides insights on strategies for building audience revenue and engagement.

To win a share of consumers’ valuable attention and money, paid news products (whether supported thorough subscriptions or member donations) must be vital to the subscriber. They must also clearly represent an editorial mandate they support.

The Tow Center identifies key strategies to support the develop of direct audience revenue:

  • Offer a unique perspective as a publisher. Readers become members when they want to be part of a unique community and access a valued news brand.
  • Clearly express your mission to accurately reflect the values you provide the world and your member community.
  • Identify activities and programs that are interesting, valuable and useful to retain members
  • Develop a strong editorial engagement with readers.
  • Build and monitor the steps in the audience revenue program conversion approach: research, expose and attract, engage and deepen, convert, and sustain.
    • Research (to learn about prospective member needs)
      User experience research
      Segmentation: reach different audience groups strategically
    • Expose and attract:
      Increasing reach through social media
      Increasing reach through in-person community events and conferences
    • Engage and deepen:
      Editorial engagement
      Article pages and site structure
      Email newsletters
      Using events to engage readers
    • Convert:
      Campaign structure
      Managing data infrastructure
      User data effectiveness
      Giving and asking frequency
    • Sustain:
      Recognizing and thanking members
      Engaging and sustaining members
  • Engage your audience through your journalism, face-to-face interactions, product design and email newsletters. Each is a great way to build a loyal and engaged audience.

Importantly, when developing editorial products, it’s important to ask what do people want (desirability), can we make what they want (feasibility), and can we make what they want successfully (viability).

Further, developing audience segments based on user research and site analytics is important in understanding the different reader experiences. It’s critical to maximize the individual user segment experiences to ensure each is fully engaged.

Overall, online news consumers aren’t used to paying to support publishers. However, this transition is evolving. That’s why it’s important to establish a series of interactions to engage individuals to help shift the occasional reader into a paying supporter.

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