The Race to Monetize Digital Content

It’s exciting to see new media evolve and different ways that online content creators work to create sustainable business models. All the popular blogs with a staff of writers give their content away which makes many wonder how they make their money. While these blogs have advertisements and affiliate partnerships, it isn’t enough revenue to cover the cost of a full staff of writers. To bridge this gap many blogs rely on conferences they host throughout the year and tickets to many of these events sell for up to thousands of dollars. Other blogs sell premium content which a small percentage of their readers may purchase.

There are so many websites, and online newspapers and magazines that share their content at no charge to readers, it simply isn’t feasible to put content behind a paywall because readers have so much choice that is free of charge. So is the only option to create a sustainable media company to host expensive conferences or sell premium content to readers? I think not. It takes a lot of work and a dedicated staff to churn out so many articles on a daily basis. We’re just in a transitional phase where everyone is trying to figure out the best way to monetize digital content.

Digital currency is already all too popular with online, social games. Zynga and others have created multi-billion dollar businesses by getting people to pay real cash for online credits to purchase farm animals and other digital nonsense to play these games. If people are willing to pay for digital crops and animals, then it must work for the online publishing industry as well. Instead of putting all the content behind a paywall however, readers should be able to pay a small fee per article.

There is a huge opportunity to help online publishers monetize their content and I can’t figure out why nobody has created a company that allows publishers to charge a nominal fee (ex $.10, $.25 or $.50) per article instead of putting all their content behind a paywall. Participating websites that would charge this nominal fee per article would simply include a link after the teaser portion of the article to allow readers to continue reading for a few cents. The company that would role this out should have it’s own website where people can refill their accounts with $10, $50, $100 or as much credit as they like, which they could use on sites around the web that decide they would charge per article. The company would then keep a small percentage of the money that is spent per article.

There is always a huge opportunity to make lots of money and create great businesses during these transitional phases. To my knowledge there isn’t a company that helps publishers monetize content per article, but if there is they aren’t doing a good job of signing up websites to use their service.  If any angel investor or venture capitalist is willing to put a couple million dollars on the table as seed money to solve the content monetization  dilemma, feel free to get in touch. I’m at adrian [at] adrianchilders [dot] com.


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