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Monetization through sponsored content – Implementation road map for publishers

There is a definite shift in the way businesses are spending their marketing dollars. The focus is on connecting with the audience at a much deeper level, as opposed to creating passing awareness through display advertising. Businesses are now targeting online editorial spaces for brand promotion, and publishers have an opportunity to maximize their earnings by implementing a revenue model based on sponsored content.

Sponsored content is a monetization model where publishers get paid for putting-out editorial features that highlight brands, products and services. It has emerged into a mainstream monetization model replacing advertising as a primary source of revenue for online publications. BuzzFeed draws almost all of its revenue from sponsored content, while Forbes’ earnings from BrandVoice (Forbes dedicated platform for sponsored content) amounts to 40% of its online revenue.

If you run an online publication, offering sponsored content as a service is a sure shot way to boost revenues. However, implementing this monetization strategy requires plenty of ground work, so here we’ll provide specific pointers to help you create sustainable revenue from sponsored content.

Sponsored content only works when you have an established reader base. So, if you’ve just started an online publication and if you don’t have an established reader base, work on building an active audience and then get serious about monetizing through sponsored content.

Define services and pricing

Sponsored content is a highly profitable monetization strategy for publishers thanks to non-existence of standard price structure. At one end of spectrum we have biggies like Buzzfeed and Gawker (network of news websites and blogs including Lifehacker and Gizmodo) who can demand fees in the range of $20,000 - $500,000, while at the other end of the spectrum we have small and mid-sized publishers providing sponsored content in the range of $200 - $2000 per post.
 

Publishers sell sponsored content in many different ways. Forbes has adopted site license model, where clients pay a license fee for the privilege of submitting content for specific duration. Some publishers club sponsored content with display advertising deals, while others charge on per post basis. For starters, it is best to define your sponsored content packages on per post basis.

The brand equity of your online publication is the single most important factor influencing the per post fee. Well known publishing brands are in a position to charge an exorbitant fee for a single post. However, if you don’t have the backing of a big brand name, you can base your pricing on following factors:

  • The outreach and authority of your website within the niche
  • Engagement and share quotient of your website
  • Editorial services including concept and writing/editing
  • Duration for which the article remains on home page or feature zone

Set post limit and editorial guidelines

Although sponsored content yields good revenue, too much of it can harm the reputation of your website. Remember, readers like worthwhile information, expert opinion, and insights – not overt brand favoritism. Setting a weekly/monthly limit on number of sponsored posts and putting strict editorial guidelines in place – helps preserve the reputation and value of your online publication.

Your editorial guidelines should have stringent criteria for content submission. Emphasize the importance of providing useful information to readers and discourage blatant promotion. Also, let it be known that submissions will be reviewed and edited by your staff.

Get on to marketers’ radar

A good starting point is to create a page or section on your website - inviting paid content from marketers. Create an inciting copy to communicate the benefits of running a content marketing campaign on your website. It is a good idea to target specific market segments based on content niche and outreach of your online publication. For example, a local lifestyle magazine can target local fashion brands, night clubs and restaurants, while a travel portal can invite paid content from tourism companies, hotel conglomerates and cruise operators.

Establishing your website as an avenue for content marketing may require some direct selling - at least initially. Arm yourself with collaterals, connect with target businesses and demonstrate the value of your website as a high potential channel for content marketing. Marketers like stats, so make sure your collaterals contain essential stats related to traffic, page views, engagement and sharing.

Also be prepared to offer freebies, prospects may ask for a free review or a mention in an editorial feature. It’s much easier to close a deal when you allow prospects to try your service for free.

Create supporting infrastructure

Managing sponsored content is a tricky business, especially when you have a large inventory for sponsored posts. Creating and I.T infrastructure for submission and management of paid content – streamlines editorial workflow and automates billing to a great extent.

BlackMonk CMS is a web publishing framework that provides ‘out of the box’ support for sponsored content. Request a demo today!


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