Disruptions Breed an Industry of Digital Content Monetization

Working in advertising gives you a front-seat view on the disruptions happening in technology, media and economics.

We meet with a lot of start ups day in and day out, with their business development employees all wide-eyed and ready to present their cool new technology to find out target audiences as they seek a piece of our client’s business.

We see our publishing sales reps from all the top magazines turning into digital sales planners as their parent companies transform into digital networks.

And we also conduct research on our consumers in order to find out the shifts in their shopping habits and how this is affecting the demand and supply models that are central to sustaining our clients’ businesses.

You see a lot of job postings (or have been contacted by head hunters) for positions such as “platform partnerships” or “digital monetization consultant” or “chief digital revenue officer.”

I used to have a bias against the inherent value of these digital products. As a magazine subscriber, I found it hard to understand why my favorite magazines offer a print subscription, AND a digital subscriptions for an additional fee. Why would I have to pay for the digital version of the content I am already reading from the glossy in my hands? The tablet/mobile subscription usually offers exclusive content such as a video and audio piece, but those are not appealing enough for me to agree shelling out extra for what I already have. As you dear reader knows, I’m against excessive consumption (to the chagrin of my industry colleagues and clients… I am in the very business of driving people to develop an infinite need for consumption).

From the perspective of a print/digital publisher, the idea of monetizing digital content is a lifesaver. Imagine the network economies of scale that can be had! Transform a print magazine into a digital one and you eliminate many of the elements that make magazine publishing a costly business. The cost of hiring production team who can turn a print magazine issue into tablet/mobile format is negligible, and can easily be gained back through incremental revenue from charging each subscriber tiny additional fee. Once the magazine issue is transformed in a proper digital format, that version can be sold not only today, but many more times in the future.

It can also spawn additional pieces of content. Take an article about keeping a professional clothing style at work: it can have a companion blurb comparing make up brands, or another full-length article about the impressive craftmanship of leather shoes.

Websites that offer content are in an even better position, since they don’t have to deal with the print side of the business. They have to work on growing their online audience, and advertising dollars will flow. If a website were to optimize itself to achieve maximum revenue, I imagine it can offer every element on its website: side bars, menu bars, footers, background, etc. Anything really! These days, they can sell links to advertisers, and even editorial content (this I’m somewhat suspicious about, because it changes journalism in a significant way).

I imagine consultants are able to advise well on content monetization, since they are already in the mindset of “productizing” their service offerings or deriving revenue from additional “knowledge” or “insight” they’ve found for the client. Since they produce no tangible product (compared to manufacturers who produce things like food, household supplies, etc), they have to rely on their proprietary knowledge to cash in on the information economy.

Content monetization is still in its nascent stages, but an interesting avenue to explore via researching closely its impact on profits and business growth.


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