When planning your publication’s revenue strategy, consider these best practices for monetization to grow your business in a sustainable way.
Producing high-quality journalism takes hard work, dedication, expertise — and money. Hyperlocal publishers have to focus on monetization if they want to grow their websites and build sustainable media businesses. With that in mind, we want to share some best practices for monetization you can use to generate more revenue for your hyperlocal site.
The business model for hyperlocal publishing has changed a great deal in the past few years. Publishers are approaching digital advertising in a completely different way now than they were a decade ago.
A hyperlocal publication is an online news service that focuses on a specific area, like a city, neighborhood, or any other geographically-defined “community.” The ability to publish directly on the web and distribute news articles to local audiences in real-time, coupled with the widespread use of free audience measurement tools like Google Analytics, has led to an explosion in the number of hyperlocal publications. Even though they are well-positioned to quickly achieve profitability, hyperlocal publishers still have some unique considerations when it comes to business models and revenue strategies. The best practices for monetization that we recommend to hyperlocal publishers are different from what we would recommend to online magazine publishers or traditional bloggers.
Hyperlocal publishers tend to have success selling display advertising in-house, particularly when they are selling to local businesses in their own communities. Display advertising isn’t the only way that hyperlocal publishers are generating revenue, though. Native advertising, sponsored content, and subscription programs are also helping to increase profitability at news organizations around the country.
When it comes to best practices for monetization, hyperlocal publishers should take a layered approach. It’s unlikely that any single strategy or monetization opportunity is enough to build a legitimate media business. Instead, publishers should be trying their hands at multiple revenue strategies for the best chance of achieving profitability.
Below, we share our current best practices for monetization:
Anyone can run PPC ads. The advantage hyperlocal publishers have is their ability to customize ads based on the advertiser’s preferences and budget. Customized ads are easy to set up on most media websites. In order for this strategy to succeed, though, publishers need to have enough web traffic. Fresh content that’s updated regularly, along with a fair amount of search engine optimization, goes a long way in driving the traffic volume.
Ad managers built for direct, digital ad sales, like Broadstreet, offer ad formats that can be customized to any size, or customized based on the advertiser’s preferences. This gives publishers the flexibility necessary to meet advertiser demands.
Targeted ad placements are good for advertisers and publishers alike. Clients can select the placement of their ads based on their conversion goals and budget constraints. With the right ad placements, advertisers can achieve increased CPMs and a better return on their investments.
The best way to handle targeted ad placements is to set up “zones” on your website. For each new campaign, you’ll need to select the ad, the zone, and the target device. The result should be a high-performing campaign that advertisers will want to run on an ongoing basis.
What types of content do readers find most engaging? When you know this information, you’re in a better position to price your targeted advertising accordingly. Savvy hyperlocal publishers will charge clients a premium to run their ads in the vicinity of sought-after articles, or content like photo galleries and embedded videos. For example, a hyperlocal publisher who discovers that subscribers are spending a disproportionate amount of time reading prep sports coverage could start charging advertisers a premium to run banner ads in the Sports section. Advertisers want to reach “sticky” audiences, and hyperlocal publishers should remember to set their pricing accordingly.
Social media isn’t the enemy. When it comes to best practices for monetization, we recommend that publishers jump in and take a proactive approach to social media.
Rather than seeing social platforms like Facebook and Twitter as the competition, hyperlocal publishers should consider utilizing display advertising formats that pull information directly from their clients’ social media accounts. For example, Broadstreet’s Instant Instagram ad format pulls in the latest post from a public Instagram feed once per hour, to display the photo, caption, and comments from the post in a display ad. This is just one way that publishers are taking advantage of social media, rather than viewing it as the competition.
Bundling is another version of upselling, but it’s far easier for most local news salespeople to implement. Advertising bundles can be set up in any way that suits the publisher. Many hyperlocal news sites will bundle their packages to give advertisers exclusive rights to certain content sections, like Sports or News. Publishers can also sell bundled packages that couple display advertising together with newsletter advertising and sponsored content.
When it’s set up in the right way, bundling is a win/win for the publisher and the client. The publisher generates more revenue, and the client gets a discount for purchasing multiple ad placements in the same order.
Learn more about the best practices available to hyperlocal publishes to build, grow, and monetize a new online publication in 2020 in our hyperlocal resource center. Click below to get started.
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