Publishing is a traditional industry, and much of what happens on a day-to-day basis is grounded in routine. At the same time, the economics of the media landscape are changing. Price points on direct-sold ad revenues are declining, and costs per acquisition (CPAs) for new eyeballs are rising.

Change needs to happen, but it doesn’t need to happen overnight. Here are 6 tips to keep in mind when bringing change to your publishing organization.

Start Small

Instead of launching new company-wide initiatives, start with small, focused experiments that can prove or disprove your idea. For instance, you could A/B test language around gated content, try different tactics to increase newsletter registrations, or create a series of videos that audiences can pay to access. You can also test offers from affiliate partners to see if you are able to build a scalable, predictable, and steady revenue stream.

Measure results of every campaign that you run, no matter how small. Some will be successful, others will take more work to optimize. You can take your most successful initiatives and blow them out into larger programs. When you’re running smaller campaigns you can easily identify and fix points of friction. You can also A/B test your messaging to optimize your advertiser’s value proposition to your readers.

Don’t get discouraged when you run into challenges. By keeping initiatives small and measuring results consistently, you can fix challenges early on and make your successes even more successful. Prioritize quality and perfect your funnel before turning on your ‘traffic acquisition’ firehose.

Consult With Your Advertisers

If you’re looking for monetization ideas, talk to your advertisers. Ask what marketing programs they’re finding successful outside of advertising. Look for partnership opportunities and products to create. This open dialogue will help your team explore new, untapped initiatives. Instead of strongarming advertisers into paying higher CPMs, develop ad products that provide more value. With this approach, your inventory will sell itself. Banner

In the Lean Startup community, this process is known as ‘customer development.’ The idea is simple: interview your advertisers and your readers to learn more about their business goals. You can then use the results of this process to create more products and areas of monetization.

As a publisher, you’re in a unique position to see both sides of the digital media equation. You’re a connector. Research both sides of your market to ensure that needs are aligned, best positioned, and optimized. When everyone wins and speaks the same language, you’ll monetize.

Keep an Eye on Innovators

Not sure whether to implement a paywall or native ad program?

Do some research first. Take a look what others in the space are doing. Pay attention to the changes they’re making, pitches they’re delivering, value they’re providing, and advertisers that they’re supporting. Over time, you can invest these observations into your own strategy. Don’t make mistakes when you can learn from others who have been where you are now.

As our Digital Publishing Benchmarks Report points out, the media industry is changing quickly. For instance, 54.8% of the survey’s respondents expect new revenue sources like sponsored content and native ads to increase within the next six months. You can leverage early lessons learned (and feedback from audiences) for new ideas to test.

Hire From Outside of Media

Great monetization ideas come from all walks of business. That’s why digital media companies should hire marketers and revenue optimizers from diverse backgrounds. You may find new inspiration from e-commerce and B2B models that your team hadn’t yet considered.

At the end of the day, all companies aim to create a product that customers will love, and to a large extent, media companies are reaching audiences with similar passions and preferences. 

Publishers need to think like marketers because advertisers are also marketers. When you hire teammates with marketing backgrounds, you’re investing in people who speak the same language of your advertisers. These individuals know what questions to ask and understand how your advertisers are measuring successes. Hire people who can fine-tune your value proposition and wow your advertisers with new ideas. In fact, hire people who have worked for companies like your advertisers’.

Keep your Internal Stakeholders Close

Change doesn’t happen in a silo. It requires cross-functional attention from marketing, editorial, engineering, analytics, and dev. Make sure that all of these teams are aligned around a common objective, so that everyone can problem-solve from their own perspectives.

You’ll also want to give your sales teams a leadership stake in your conversations. After all, these are the individuals who talk to and sell to advertisers every day. Ask your sales teams to guide your messaging and launch strategies. Have them weigh in with suggestions, before you launch anything.

Everyone should be running their own continuous, small-scale experiments to make advertising programs more efficient and to carve out new monetization opportunities. Teams should also report upon their learnings from their own unique perspectives. This information will help you tailor your messaging and launch strategies in subtle yet impactful ways.

Create an Inbound Strategy

Your best approach to monetization will come from your most valuable stakeholders of all: your readers, who are in control of the content they’re reading and advertising messages that they’re consuming. Talk to your website visitors (using forms on your site) to see what resources they’re seeking out. Develop products, marketing messages, and content strategies that meet these needs. It’s that straightforward. 

This approach is simple. You’re creating value for your customers at all touch points in your organization. Rather than attracting eyeballs on a fleeting basis, you can build close relationships that keep your audiences coming back to your website. This approach to marketing will help you lower your CPAs and optimized earned media. It’s a win-win situation that boosts your bottom line.

The Bottom Line

Keep your stakeholders close. Keep your customers and advertisers even closer. In an industry that is undergoing such profound change, there is no other way to operate. We learn from each other, build upon each others’ experiments, and challenge each other to get better.

When it comes to being nimble and adaptable, media leaders need more than an open mind. We need processes to test opportunities without sabotaging what’s working. We need steady and incremental changes to the status quo. Start small, identify wins, and scale whatever is driving results.

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