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Diversify: Publishers Find New Ways to Bring in the Bucks

Written by Rachel Sanders on February 28, 2013

It’s hard out here for a publisher. Some of the biggest titles in the magazine world are struggling to stay afloat. With Reader’s Digest filing for bankruptcy this month (for the second time), and Rolling Stone refinancing $200 million dollars in debt, it’s clear that even – or maybe especially – the giants of publishing need to find ways to strengthen the business side of their operations.

Forbes pointed out recently that it’s often the bigger publishers that have a harder time changing and adapting to the times. But there are those that are finding ways to innovate. Although some publishers are improving their financial outlook by raising paywalls and increasing the cost of their print versions, others are looking in new directions for revenue streams to bolster their income.

Here are a few strategies that have come to light over the past few weeks:

One daily newspaper has a new perspective on its content and has found a way to monetize its archives. The Dallas Morning News has turned its archives into a content marketing revenue stream by offering them for a fee to companies in the area to use in their newsletters and corporate blogs and websites. At a recent executive roundtable in New Orleans, Jim Moroney of the Dallas Morning News said that “marketing has become a content war.” As producers of content, he said, newspapers are in a position to win.

In addition to selling their own content to corporations, some smaller publishers are helping create fresh content for brands. Last week, Digiday ran a story describing how smaller publishers like Vice are working on a “publisher as agency” model, helping brands develop content on the side. Digiday argues that, while smaller publishers can’t compete with the big guys for page views, they’re well positioned to help brands understand how to target their messages for their passionate, niche-oriented readers.

At least one major publisher is going even further in that direction – not just helping brands advertise, but becoming a retail brand itself. Condé Nast increased its investment in the online jewelry startup RenéSim this month. The publisher hints that this won’t be the last time they invest in an e-commerce venture, either. A recent post in TechCrunch reports that the VP of Condé Nast International said the publisher targets innovative businesses which “as new business models, can provide meaningful additions to our media portfolio.”

But it’s not just brands that smart publishers are courting these days. A recent Poynter post reports that Chicago Tribune editor Gerould Kern believes the paper’s success depends on “establishing a relationship with the people who come to the Tribune each day in all of its forms.” The Tribune is making efforts to engage their readership, reaching out through community events like seminars and discussions. The Tribune charges admission to most of their events, but more importantly they use them as an opportunity to bond with readers and find out what they need and expect from the publication.

It’s the age of the Renaissance publisher: the smart ones are branching out.


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