It’s no secret, the economics of online content has many publishers and creators relying solely on digital advertising as their single source of revenue. But digital advertising is increasingly competitive and volatile, making it difficult to remain reliable.
P&G, the biggest advertiser in the U.S., kept their brands from advertising on YouTube for more than a year. They only recently returned to YouTube but reduced the number of channels they advertise with from 3 million to 10,000. The competition among creators who earn, if estimating generously—$18 per 1,000 views—is steep.
With social media platforms still bearing the scars from the Cambridge Analytica advertising data scandal, consumers are more suspicious of brands advertising on social than ever. This leads to fewer clicks, lower ROI for those brands and lower advertising revenue for content creators.
Publishers, advertisers and content creators must look beyond the broken revenue share model to make influencer partnerships more effective, increase the quality of the content and create a win for everyone.
Subscription and pay-per-view model
One key monetization method lies in subscription and pay-per-view, and our digital era creates a direct channel where compelling content creators can grow both consumer loyalty and drive revenue. Boxing has mastered the pay-per-view model, with the biggest pay-per-view event being the 2015 Floyd Mayweather Jr. versus Manny Pacquiao fight, topping 4.6 million units and grossing more than $600 million.
From a business perspective, subscription businesses grew revenue about eight times faster than S&P 500 company revenues (15.2 percent versus 2 percent) and about five times faster than U.S. retail sales (15.2 percent versus 3.4 percent) from Jan. 1, 2012 to March 30, 2017.
Content is king, and a pay-per-view model gives creators a more consistent revenue stream that can fund the production of better content. However, there are some specific aspects of pay-per-view content to keep in mind when implementing the strategy.
First, creators and marketers must develop a pricing model that works for the length, style and consistency of their content. Gauge the length of a given episode or piece of content, price it at a point where viewers are willing to contribute. Look at pricing models used by others in your same vertical to identify the best price. Additionally, creators should ensure the prices paid for a piece of content covers slightly more than the duration of the purchase. Think about it: You wouldn’t want your access to a one-hour engagement cut at the 30-minute mark.
Diversifying distribution channels
Online content creators generate revenue by building up an audience and then directing that audience to a profitable business they own or are sponsored by. This can be premium content like a book, movie, album or online course. Better yet, this could be a premium service business like consulting, speaking or coaching.
As a content creator, the quality, quantity and availability of content is paramount. Content creators should work toward having their audience follow them on multiple platforms to maximize their impact. A quick tip to streamline this effort is to have links to all social channels on each respective social platform. Additionally, to grow the audience of a particular platform, a creator can issue exclusive content on one social channel and promote that content on all other platforms. That strategy helps drive traffic as needed while also letting audiences know there are numerous ways to stay engaged. Diversifying distribution channels provides a safety net should one platform change their policies or algorithms.
However, it’s important to note that even in the attention economy, the number of streams on a piece of content is by no means a true form of currency or valuation. It simply translates into an opportunity to build a business.
Merchandising and product sales
With a healthy revenue stream that incorporates pre-roll advertising, third-party sponsors like brand deals including merchandise sales, affiliate links and crowdfunding all spread across multiple platforms, content creators are protected if one of those revenue sources or platforms evaporates. It’s easier than ever for creators to integrate ecommerce capabilities so they can influence not just brand awareness but also sales.
All leading social platforms offer ways to exchange money for goods or services. For example, Facebook enabled transactions via Messenger Payments, Twitter has a Buy Now button in tweets and Instagram integrated with Shopify. Content creators and marketers can use these ecommerce capabilities to further enhance strategies in a way that makes sense to coveted viewers. The user experience is actually benefited here as they don’t need to leave the app or social channel to investigate the potential purchase.
But brand deals need to make sense for the creator. Audiences build a relationship and develop trust in influencers and creators they favor. Twitter found 49 percent of consumers depend on influencer recommendations, so while this does create an great opportunity for creators, a brand partnership must also be genuine for it to be successful. If a partnership is based purely on transactional gains without focusing on the shared values between the brand and creator, the partnership will fail—or worse, turn off an audience.
With Google and Facebook’s continuing dominance in the digital advertising market, it’s critical that content creators diversify their distribution channels and bake in additional monetization strategies. By taking control and seeking out alternative revenue streams, content creators expand beyond simple advertising revenue returns, which ultimately lets them focus on what they do best: creating great content for their audience.