It's no secret that technology is shifting the face of editorial faster than publishers can adapt, and in 2018 the consequences hit the media world hard. Meredith Corp. hung a For Sale sign on many of America's most iconic publications, including Time Magazine, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, and Money, a hit that was punctuated by the collapse of The Village Voice, while one-time digital golden child Mic laid off its entire editorial staff before selling. The strategy behind online revenue models has changed astronomically in the past decade, and companies that can't keep up are getting left behind.
"When I started at the Times, it was your traditional media sales business," Sebastian Tomach, global head of advertising for the New York Times, mused about adapt-or-die business models to Addweek. "The newsroom put out a product, you took that to advertisers, talked about how big the audience was and the various sizes of ads you could sell, and then you sold them."
But with the internet age in full swing, traditional ad sales have are being rendered increasingly irrelevant, though their structures and principles inform new evolutions — the iPod classic of business models. Now, the name of the game is adaptability, and media companies need to branch out into diverse revenue streams to stay afloat. The Times is much more than the Sunday paper or digital publication most readers are familiar with: it's a sponsored content studio, influencer marketing firm, and brand consultant.
This trend applies to younger media born of the digital-era as well. As $500 million dollar women's digital media company Refinery29 wrote in a recent memo announcing major restructuring, "This is a time where the strongest businesses with the most meaningful brands and diversified revenue streams will continue to shine — and thrive."
A central pillar of a diverse revenue stream is sponsored content, which blends editorial with advertising, creating hybrid content that reflects the increasingly faded divide between content and commerce in the internal structure of media companies.
But effectively leveraging advertorial requires a sophisticated command of technology to track conversions, additional business development hands to scout and maintain relationships with brand partners, and creative analysts to optimize content for conversions as well as traffic. That's out of the question for most small or medium-sized publications, or any company not effectively peering down a beanstalk. How can small teams diversify their revenue streams to withstand the rocky media landscape?
Companies like GeistM are stepping in to bridge the gap, helping small publishers leverage the benefits of content marketing. GeistM works with brands to create and execute a full-funnel content marketing strategy, resulting in over four billion dollars in sales for brand partners. They also allow small digital publications a chance to leverage growth by becoming part of our publisher network, reaping the benefit of pre-qualified, paid traffic at no cost to them. Plus, the experience as a site with proven converting ability can provide a strong foundation for publishers to continue building their own sponsored content revenue stream.
For small publishers, 2018 was full of lessons about navigating the tumultuous state of digital media. The key takeaway from companies thriving through the turmoil: diversified revenue is everything. For digital publishers without the resources to put a plan into action, partnering with third party content marketing firms like GeistM encourages growth, and provides the opportunity to test sponsored content as a viable option for the site with some of the best known brands in the world.