Bright future for specialist media: build audiences; develop many revenue streams

What is it that unites specialist media businesses, whether they serve consumer or professional audiences, in print, events or digital or some combination of the three?  Listening to the speakers in the “future of specialist media” session at the Specialist Media Show conference, I’d say the common thread is building a specialist audience, with particular interests and information needs, then finding many ways to create revenue streams around that audience, from supplying content, facilitating connections online or at events, and creating opportunities for advertisers to reach that audience.  Here are the highlights of the presentations from Phil Redwood of Fusion Communciations, Miles Galliford of Subhub and Riva Elliott of PMA media training:

1.Old revenue sources are still important, but are declining

Research commissioned from Fusion on how media owners see their revenues in 2 years time show a gradual but inexorable shift from traditional sources. B2B media believe events and print advertising will still be their most important revenue sources, but print ads will decline by 42%. Newstand sales are collapsing. Consumer media will still see print ads and newstand as their main revenue sources, but both are declining by 20%.  Print subs are looking brighter with strong growth, and online ads are still growing fast from a low base.

2. Media owners are investigating new revenue sources

With traditional revenues in decline, no wonder there is focus on new sources. 64% of specialist media owners expect to charge for online content in future; while only 26% currently have mobile apps, 77% will have one soon.  64% are planning to add video and audio content. Top worries are how to grow revenues from the web, digital editions and mobile.

3. Build an engaged audience before monetising

Drawing on experiences of successful online publishers, Miles Galliford stressed the importance of building quality content and focussing on engaging visitors and building relationships before diving into ecommerce or subscriptions.  A key aim is to acquire  an email address from every visitor by offering more top-notch content.

4. Develop multiple revenue streams

Once their quality content has built an engaged audience, a clever online media owner will start to test a range of different ways to build revenue, from advertising and affiliates to commissions on ecommerce, one-off downloads, regular subscriptions and one-off events.  Miles lists 35 possible revenue sources in his new book, The Funnel of Trust.  Read more about his ideas on building trust for online content businesses here.

5. Journalists must become entrepreneurs

Many of the new revenue sources require strong integration between the content on the site and commercial opportunities, but without undermining the trust of the audience.  Riva Elliott’s research among editors shows that their role is shifting – as well as broadening their journalistic skills to cover writing for the web, social media and using video – they need to become entrepreneurs, ready to spot revenue opportunities and work with the rest of the team to implement them.

My conclusion of this is that media owners need to diversify revenues as old sources decline, and that using quality content to build an audience, then testing multiple revenue sources is the best strategy.  If you have strong views on how specialist media businesses will develop in future then please comment below, or join the discussion on the Specialist Media Network on linked-in, and swap ideas and tips with over 300 other specialist media people.

Read other articles based on debates at the Specialist Media Show here:

Secrets of launching events from media brands

Beyond the paid content debate – how to build value from free content

How publishers can make digital media pay

Secrets of successful commercial partnerships in specialist markets

Bright future for specialist media: build audiences, develop many revenue streams

About the author: Carolyn  Morgan runs Penmaen Media, a consultancy advising media owners on how to profit from digital media and marketing. She is also content director for the Specialist Media Show. If you’d like an informal discussion about how you can develop new revenue sources for your specialist media business please contact Penmaen Media for a chat.