Ten new specialist publishing models

How can niche publishers expand their revenues beyond circulation and advertising and experiment with new ways to provide content and services to a specialist audience?  From talking to pioneering media businesses over the last year I’ve picked up ten practical ideas that could inspire niche publishers to experiment with some new approaches.  This article is based on a presentation I gave at a workshop at the Specialist Media Show on 25 May:

1. Re-use and recycle content for new channels

In many specialist markets, content is essentially evergreen and can be enjoyed by readers for several years.  It’s not a repeat if you haven’t seen it the first time!  K9 magazine makes sure no content is ever wasted; new digital subs get the back catalogue, and past content is turned into ebooks and used as a subs premium.

2. Exploit your history

Established publishers have a fabulous asset in their archive.  By digitising it they can drive search traffic and ad revenues, capture email addresses and even charge for full passes.  Gramophone grew their site traffic by 30% when they added 250k pages.

3.  Develop new distribution channels

In  niche markets in old-fashioned print publishing, it’s worth working out where your customers might be and building partnerships with suitable outlets.  Five Star Magazine has distribution partnerships with marinas, spas, luxury hotels and private jet hire.

4. Provide data/ analysis not news

B2B publishers can no longer charge for news, but they can charge for data and analysis.  Journalists at VRL Financial learnt to deliver fewer words and more graphics and that helped the publisher sell company site licences rather than individual subscriptions.

5. Create bespoke campaigns for advertisers

Rates on banner ads are ridiculously low, but specialist publishers do have an edge: their editorial expertise and access to communities.  Creating campaigns that engage readers has won Military Times and Made for Mums big budgets from major advertisers.

6. Build partnerships with key retailers

What does your niche audience spend money on and which retailers do they use?  Building strong relationships with important online and offline retailers is a good strategy for a niche publisher.  Songlines has used its Music Awards to get promotion with itunes, amazon and HMV, driving traffic back to its digital edition.

7. Get your community together

Specialist interests groups love to get together: so many publishers are now hosting live events and creating online forums.  Stylist Network has developed sponsorship and ticket revenues and is also seeing editorial benefits.

8. Encourage your community to create content

Specialist communities are experts and keen to share their knowledge.  They often have greater expertise than the editorial team.  Chrommunity is a free community launched by Advanstar; it now has 3500 members and many of their blogs are published in the magazine.

9. Help develop their skills

Business communities and enthusiastic hobbyists want to improve their skills.  So many publishers are actively developing online and face to face training, even professional qualifications in partnership with academic organisations.  Econsultancy now have almost half their revenues from skills development among their membership.

10. Turn conversations into commerce

B2B communities crave peer insights, and value the views of expert practitioners.  Accounting web runs a community with 600 questions and 3000 answers a month.  They sell sponsorship of surveys, reports, debates and awards to commercial organisations, while it is free for the accountant members.

You can read more on these ideas in my presentation on slideshare on “Ten new specialist publishing models”.  I work individually with specialist publishers to help them develop a bespoke digital publishing strategy, drawing on the examples I have seen at the Specialist Media Show and the research we have commissioned.  If you’re interested to learn more, please contact me for an initial chat.

Read comments from past clients about my work.

Carolyn Morgan