It’s the ultimate goal for content marketing. Taking an audience you have built with content and turning it into a revenue source.
Content marketing can make you money. Here’s how.
Owning your audience
We’ve long advocated transitioning audiences built on the ‘rented land’ of social platforms into owned audiences. We stand by this more than ever in light of the recent Facebook announcement that it was deprioritising content from publishers and brands. The problem with a third party platform is that you have no control over it. You don’t actually own that audience and when you do, the possibilities are so much more powerful.
There are many examples of brands commercialising audiences much like publishers have done for eons. For example, Kraft Foods built an audience, with 100 million annual visitors to its websites. It did this by providing on-trend recipes that people would be interested in and refining their content based on data. The recipes, of course, suggest Kraft products among the ingredients. This method enabled Kraft Foods to generate four times the return on investment through content marketing than through traditional advertising.
Another famous content marketing story is, of course, Red Bull. The company has developed such an audience for its extreme sports events and videos to the point that they have positioned themselves as a media company that makes a drink product.
Commercialise strategically with an audience-first approach
Once you have built your audience, the ‘hard sell’ should be done with caution. You don’t want to turn off the people you have worked hard to engage. Remember the value proposition you are offering to your customers. If they find enough value through your content they will follow you and support you.
There are many opportunities to get information or entertainment. Lose your usefulness and you will have lost your customer.
What are some of the ways to make revenue from content?
Commercialising content can take many forms. The key is finding what strategy, or combination of strategies, fit with your business objectives and your audience’s needs. Here are just a few methods:
This is one of the most popular and traditional methods to commercialise content. Advertising involves companies paying for direct access to your audience.
The category can also include native advertising and sponsored content paid for by brands. Some of the world’s biggest publishers make significant revenue through sponsored content or native advertising. In 2017, native advertising campaigns were estimated to drive 60% of The Atlantic’s digital revenue.
Partnerships are collaborations between two or more organisations on content. They work best with businesses with aligned goals and access to a relevant audience. An example of this is B2B company Fold Factory, which sells fold templates to create unique cards to print designers. The company created videos called 60-Second Super-Cool Fold of the Week to demonstrate her fold templates. At the same time, the United States Postal Service needed content for its weekly newsletter. The two entered into a partnership and her business sales went through the roof – the videos are directly responsible for over $500,000 in additional revenue.
The benefits of a partnership are that businesses can increase their exposure and engagement. It can mean using another organisation’s audience to get your message across. It can also mean providing more useful content to your audience without needing a lot of additional resources.
3. Products and services
Offering products and services to your audience can open up new revenue streams.
Creating events and marketing them to your audience can add money to your pocket. With this service most revenue is made through paid registration or sponsorship.
For example, the Australian Water Association (AWA) produces content that encourages people to sign up to its events, courses and awards. This content is focused on event speakers or behind the scenes stories. The content is not only valuable for the audience but also drives registrations and revenue.
BuzzFeed’s Tasty was launched in July 2015 and quickly built itself an audience through its short, birds-eye view recipe videos. Tasty now gets billions of views every month. In December 2017, its videos got 1.1 billion views on Facebook alone.
What followed was a series of spin offs for local markets and an expansion into products. Tasty began selling a customisable cookbook that allows buyers to choose between 21 recipe categories. In its first few months, the book sold 100,000 copies and became a bestseller, even though it could only be purchased on Tasty’s website.
After it fell out of favour for a short while, some content producers are moving back to a subscription model. The New York Times is now giving away five articles a month before offering a subscription. This tactic has earned the publisher more than $1 billion in subscription revenue in 2017 and a 46% jump in the number of subscriptions over the same year. If your company has a more niche audience than The New York Times, you can still successfully use the method. Marketing Profs offers a range of subscription models, some free and some paid, as a way to boost revenue.
This model should be used strategically. For example, if your aim is to use content marketing to build brand awareness, loyalty and customer communities, then restricting access through subscription may have the opposite effect.
5. Affiliate links
This involves a company paying you every time a visitor to your site clicks on a link to purchase the other company’s products or services. Affiliate links track whether a sale at a third party’s site was due to a referral from your site.
The Wirecutter, which reviews gadgets and gear, makes money every time it it sells a product that it lists on its site.
6. Premium content
Invested audiences can purchase premium content. This is bottom of the funnel content that highlights your products or services more directly. For example, Marketing Profs, a resource for marketers, offers pro membership with a fee to access more resources including e-learning courses, seminars and how-to guides.
7. Syndicated content
Content is syndicated when it is taken from your original website and published on third-party websites for a fee. Red Bull’s so-called “Content Pool” allows media companies and content producers to purchase thousands of videos, photographs and music connected to Red Bull’s brand.
Hannah Dixon contributed to the writing of this piece.