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DCN Research Unveils Strategic Focus Areas Vital to Niche Publishers’ Sustainability

January 24, 2017 | By DCN

Owning a space and establishing a clear voice are critical to success

NEW YORK– (January 24, 2017) – Digital Content Next (DCN), the only trade association exclusively dedicated to trusted, high-quality digital content brands, today released “Niche Publishers: How to Create Sustainable Business Models in a Digital Marketplace”, a research report funded by the Knight Foundation. The research examines how 11 digital publications, including Axios, Gimlet and Recode, each capture a unique space, and the tactics they use to attract, monetize and grow their audiences.

“The publishers interviewed aren’t chasing scale, but rather focusing on how to develop their own unique brand and content that will deliver a very specific audience,” said Jason Kint, CEO, Digital Content Next. “They also have a culture of experimentation that encourages testing different revenue streams, something all publishers – large or small – must focus on today.”

DCN’s research found that niche publishers need to combine an innovative business strategy with a unique content strategy to secure the financial resources required to deliver on their core mission. Seven key strategies uncovered, include:

  1. Content Development: Unique, compelling content that will capture the attention of readers is required.
  2. Editorial Brand: A singular voice and point-of-view are necessary to break through the clutter of a crowded digital landscape.
  3. Audience Development / Delivery: Publishers must deliver attractive audiences to advertisers and sponsors; niche publishers primarily rely on audience loyalty as it demonstrates audience engagement.
  4. Data: Data is required for a solid business strategy however compilation and analysis is often hampered by funding and available staffing.
  5. Revenue Streams: Given the challenging media market, it’s a necessity for niche publishers to develop multiple revenue streams.
  6. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Niche publishers should develop their KPI’s early and review them often with all staff to make sure that they maintain focus not only on their editorial and business strategies but on their core mission.
  7. Operational Efficiencies: Growing revenue while maximizing resources often means coordinating with other publishers to optimize exposure, flattening hierarchies and streamlining staff functions

Interviews were conducted from November 30 to December 13, 2016 with executives from a range of niche publishers – from profit to non-profit and from national to local, some with targeted content and others with broad-based content. Participating executives were:

  • Axios, Jim VandeHei, founder
  • Billy Penn, Jim Brady, founder and CEO of Spirited Media
  • Cheddar, Jon Steinberg, founder and CEO
  • Gimlet Media, Jim Grau, VP finance and operations
  • Independent Journal Review, Alex Skatell, founder and CEO
  • ProPublica, Celeste LeCompte, director of business development
  • Recode, Kara Swisher, co-founder and co-executive editor
  • Spanfeller Media Group, Jim Spanfeller, CEO
  • The Marshall Project, Carroll Bogert, president
  • The Texas Tribune, Evan Smith, CEO and co-founder
  • Voice of San Diego, Mary Walter-Brown, COO and publisher

“Niche Publishers: How to Create Sustainable Business Models in a Digital Marketplace” was first unveiled on Thursday, January 19 during a panel discussion at DCN Next: Summit, an annual members-only conference. Participating panelists included Jim Brady, founder & CEO, Spirited Media; April Hinkle, chief revenue officer, Texas Tribune; Jim Spanfeller, founder & CEO, Spanfeller Media Group, Inc.; and panel moderator Martin Nisenholtz, special advisor & founder, DCN and professor of Digital Communication, Boston University.

View the full research report.

With a focus on all types of revenue, DCN has expanded its scope to share additional intelligence and industry findings through its InContext website, public events and research. In 2016, the Knight Foundation awarded DCN a grant to offer memberships to smaller, independent online news organizations and other online content publishers. For the latest, follow DCN on Twitter.

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Digital Content Next (DCN) is the only trade organization dedicated to serving the unique and diverse needs of high-quality digital content companies that manage trusted, direct relationships with consumers and marketers. The organization was founded in June 2001 as the Online Publishers Association (OPA). Comprised of some of the most trusted and well-respected media brands, DCN produces proprietary research for its members and the public, creates public and private forums to explore and advance key issues that impact digital content brands, offers an influential voice that speaks for digital content companies in the press, with advertisers and policy makers, and works to educate the public at large on the importance of quality content brands. Digital Content Next’s membership has an unduplicated audience of 223,098 million unique visitors or 100% reach of the U.S. online population. * More information about Digital Content Next is available at https://digitalcontentnext.org/.

*Source: comScore Media Metrix Multiplatform Custom Audience Duplication, June 2016, U.S. DCN Member Entities

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