How to create value from a website for a free publication

Publications that already sell print subscriptions have an obvious revenue source from their online activity, but what do you do if your print business is free distribution and ad-funded?  Here’s some ideas to get you thinking differently about how you can create value:

1. How can the web proposition enhance your existing ad proposals?

Do your advertisers value data collection, competitions, surveys or feedback?  Adding a web dimension to your current proposals adds value to their campaign.  In the current environment banners won’t have high value, so focus on bespoke activity linked into your editorial content.

2. What is the value of databases to your advertisers?

Use your website to gather detailed profile information from your users.  This has a value to advertisers for research or targeted mailings.  Regular e-newsletters can also carry advertiser offers and links.

3. Will your consumers pay for specials ?

Even if your main publication is free, maybe there are spin-off reports, digests or detailed reviews that consumers may pay for, either as a download or ordering a print publication online.  How far will your brand stretch and how well can you repurpose content?

4. Could you run any special events that consumers would pay to attend?

Many publishers already run reader events; some have large scale shows, with advertisers exhibiting and editorial contributors providing live content.  Your website is the ideal place to promote tickets.

5. What products/ services do you recommend?

Most publications provide an independent buyer’s guide to products, retailers, events, suppliers.  Users going through a research process are ready to transact at the end.  Could you partner with the provider, drive users from your site and earn a commission?

I’d love to hear if these ideas prompt you to add new features to your website; please post a comment below.

Carolyn Morgan’s business, Penmaen Media, provides consultancy and practical support to media businesses who want to grow their revenues through digital.  For more details just visit