Seven new digital business models for media owners

Publishers are exploring a range of new business models to reduce their reliance on advertising, grow digital revenues and develop multiple revenue

Example: How Future plans revenue streams

Carolyn Morgan

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Creating digital strategies for media businesses: consultant and NED

Publishers are exploring a range of new business models to reduce their reliance on advertising, grow digital revenues and develop multiple revenue sources. Some are focussing on subscriptions and other premium paid services, others exploring e-commerce and affiliates, or reinventing their approach to advertising.

Below are seven approaches to new digital business models with examples from the speakers at the Digital Innovators Summit in Berlin:

1. Subscriptions focus

Online Slovakian news start up The Washington Post has broadened its reach as a digitally delivered national news brand, and tests subs offers intensively to entice readers to pay for content. Meanwhile the New York Times now has over 2m digital subscribers and works hard to keep them engaged and loyal. Business Insider launched Insider Picks three years ago, identifying products that their affluent millennial audience might want to buy, creating relevant content and generating revenue through affiliate links. Revenues have grown 100% yoy over last 3 years. , takes no advertising and relies on online subscriptions. They can track which articles drive paid subs, to focus their editorial strategy. Axel Springer, a dominant German print publisher, has become the world’s largest classified operator, largely via acquisition outside Germany. Over the last 10 years, digital revenue has grown twelvefold to €2500m. More in this article.

Media businesses are strongly swinging towards subscriptions as a more reliable and predictable way to fund quality journalism than advertising.

2. Multi media

Long established print media brands have been exploring new platforms for their content, from stand alone video channels to books, podcasts and events, funded by sponsorship, branded content, advertising and their reader audience.

The Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has invested substantially in creating an ecosystem of tech tools providing analytics, offer testing and frictionless mobile payments, plus AI to generate new headlines, predict which stories will go viral and moderate comments. Having demonstrated that this suite of tools has driven traffic and revenue growth on their own media brands they are now marketing it as a software platform for other publishers.

3. Ecommerce/ affiliates

Media brands known for their product reviews are finding ways to generate affiliate and e-commerce revenues without undermining their editorial independence.

The new digital storytelling rules: how journalism is changing How should publishers engage with social platforms? New thinking on digital subscriptions: eight successful strategies Five future tech trends that media businesses need to watch About the author

4. Added value services, research, consultancy

B2B media are concentrating on the needs of their most valuable customers and developing highly tailored premium content, research and consultancy services.

5. Classified

Many media businesses have been wrong footed as key classified markets: recruitment, property, motors have moved totally online, depleting traditional print advertising revenues. But some are actively developing stand alone digital classified businesses

6. Marketing services/ data

Consumer and B2B media brands which focus on product reviews are sitting on fabulously detailed data that maps their readers entire research and purchase journey. This is invaluable to their advertisers, enabling them to market far more precisely.

7. Analytics platform

Most media businesses realise that they need to think more like tech businesses, employing more developers and analysts, and adopting the agile test and learn culture. Some are now developing their own tech tools and making them available to other media owners.

How can you diversify your revenues?

There are now plenty of examples of different media business models. The challenge is deciding what is the correct focus for your media brand and your audience – and the skills of your organisation. It’s worth investing the time to thoroughly research all these factors and build on the experiences of other publishers.

If you want to talk through your options and explore how you can create a future-proof business model, you are welcome to get in touch for an initial discussion over the phone or over a coffee.

This article is part of a series based on the speakers and discussions at the Digital Innovators Summit – you may be interested to explore the other topics:

Carolyn Morgan has launched, acquired, grown and sold media businesses across print, digital and live events. A co-founder of the Specialist Media Show, which was sold to SIIA, parent of IIN, in 2013, she has wide experience of niche publishing businesses, and advises many independent media owners on their digital strategy.

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Creating digital strategies for media businesses: consultant and NED

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