Initially, the media industry saw publishers struggle amid a worsening economic climate, causing the decline or total loss of main revenue streams. Both online and traditional publishers have been struggling to produce a large enough income to stay afloat, and many needed to close down or merge with other entities. The businesses that have managed to survive have had to find new ways to adapt. media update’s Maryna Steyn looks at why publishers are relying more on consumer-centric business models.

According to the PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2020-2024, newspapers, magazines and online advertising have been affected negatively. This is due to their high dependency on ad revenue.

The worsening financial situation is forcing advertisers to cut costs, resulting in a lower available amount in the budget for placing ads. This means that the publishers’ main source of income is rapidly disappearing.

But publishers have found a solution.

Online and traditional publishers are opting for a consumer-centric business that puts the customer first. This means that these businesses place their customers at the centre of their business decisions. Why? Consumers are the only reliable source of income. That is why publishers are getting back to basics and putting their readers first.

The future will see publishers depending on audience insight, multidisciplinary teams, as well as the examples the leaders of industry set. This is according to a study conducted by the Reuters Institute for the study of Journalism. When asked if the pandemic impacted their business strategies, 76% of participants explained that it did not change their approach at all. In fact, it actually encouraged them to speed up their shift towards digitalisation.

The study also indicated that diversifying revenue streams is vital to the survival of both digital and traditional publishers. There are different ways in which publishers have shifted towards consumer-focused revenue streams. These include:
  • Paywalls: A paywall is a digital feature that provides users access to premium content. If someone wants to access additional content, it requires a value exchange. The idea is to attract new customers with free content first. Next, these individuals either pay to access the locked content or provide their email addresses. Contact details are later used for newsletters and marketing info. This is also called a metered paywall. It will still allow consumers to share the locked content and other readers to view it. The paywall will only pop up after the next readers start exploring other blocked sections.
  • Subscriptions: This is available to both digital or traditional media. In the case of online subscriptions, it provides regular paying users access to specific topics of interest as well as exclusive subscribers-only content. In the case of traditional media, it means paying to receive the issues within a set amount of time.
  • E-commerce: By using their digital platforms, publishers sell their products or branded merchandise to their consumers. The savings of not needing a physical space are astronomical.
Diversified revenue streams are becoming easier to implement with a higher demand for a variety of content. With the growth in online traffic and traditional subscriptions that popular magazines and newspapers have seen in recent months, comes the request for different ways to consume publishers' content. More than this, consumers are also looking for diverse topics and content types. When applying a consumer-centric business model in publishing, consider this:
  • Content is king
    The oft quoted 'content is king' means that a publisher will find high quality, interesting original content to be most successful on the Internet. These businesses need to develop diverse content for a diverse audience. Naturally, this will need to relate to the brand and the data gathered from audience insights. Publishers also need to look at how people are consuming media. Is it digital consumption via mobile? Is it traditional forms of media such as printed newspapers? Or is it something completely different wherein you need to delve into?
  • News podcasts
    This particular form of podcasts has proved to be a high performer above all other genres. Publishers are focusing on so-called deep-dive podcasts that discuss particular topics of interest. In some cases, micro-bulletins are also being used to repackage printed content. Although fewer people are spending time in traffic listening to podcasts, it remains a favoured method of consuming information.
  • The rise of the machine
    Another avenue publishers can explore is the potential ways in which artificial intelligence (AI) can be used. At its core, AI is a computer’s ability to recognise speech, human emotion and faces, as well as analysing and processing complex data such as language and patterns. Publishers can utilise AI in the form of automated e-commerce, chatbots or personalised marketing efforts. This includes anything from article or book recommendations to customised newsletters. Most online businesses are already using artificial intelligence when processing audience analytics to integrate the results into a marketing strategy.
Consumers are already exploring their options for stay-at-home activities. With many countries forced into lockdown, people are finding there is only so much Netflix and chilling one can do. Why not grab the opportunity and put your readers first? Consumer-centric business models really are the way forward for 2021!

Publishers are going back to basics with their consumer-centric business models. Do you know any other brands making the change? Let us know in the comments section below.

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If you would like to read more about the publishing industry, check out our article The publishing Industry’s struggle continues.
*Image courtesy of Canva