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12 Ways Online Publishers Make Money (Some may surprise you)

12 Ways Online Publishers Make Money

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Confusion and overwhelm.

That describes it….and I work in the industry.

An insider.

Became an online publisher, digital marketer and entrepreneur.

A writer.

Immersed myself in the global game.

I didn’t know where it was going. Just knew it was exciting.

And it is.

But making sense of it….that’s another thing.

It keeps morphing

Changing and shape shifting.

Algorithms that made you visible. On page one. Removed.


Websites that worked. Superseded by apps.

And disrupted by mega platforms.

A near broken company called Apple that made smart mobiles mainstream has now changed the world.

Business is changing in front of our eyes. But so many can’t see it.

Or make sense of it.

 So what do we do?

What were business models that worked for decades have been torn up!

Newspapers, music, book publishers, video rental are just a few. The Web has destroyed and splintered old business models.

So free content everywhere.

How do you monetise. Make money? As an online publisher.

What is a publisher?

In the past it was the book publishers. newspaper publishers and all those in the traditional role of publishing old media.

Today we have new media.

The rise of the social and mobile web has made us all publishers. The traditional role of what defines a publisher has been torn up.

Those that want to publish for a living are now a splintered bunch with different types of media at their disposal.

Audio (Podcasting), video, live streaming, images and photographs, ebooks and the list goes on.

Any creator and digital entrepreneur that want to monetise their knowledge, influence and creativity across many media types needs to understand the new game.

A lean business model

Modern publishers need to keep overheads down.

So….avoid fancy offices. A home office will do or the corner of your local cafe.

It worked for J.K. Rowling.

Don’t hire staff but outsource to key contractors that have the skills you need. Employees can be hired if necessary later when your business model is working consistently.

Keep it simple.

Focus on one platform and one media type at first. You can’t be an expert podcaster, video producer and an amazing writer from day one.

Before you ask for money this is vital

Build an audience before you need them.

Almost every online publisher that bootstraps has gone out and given away free content until they have their tribe. You need to understand you are playing a long game. If you are chasing fast money then you will have a fast and short business.

Kevin Kelly’s rant “1,000 True Fans” in 2008 has been taken onboard by many digital entrepreneurs.  Not aiming to build an audience of millions but just wanting to build 1,000 true followers who are willing to pay $100 for your products (or services) once a year.

Mike Stelzner from Social Media Examiner didn’t sell anything until he had 10,000 email subscribers.

A few to consider

The days of making easy money from banner ads are long gone. So as a content marketer and publisher the options are many but the challenge is not to just chase rats and mice. Sweating the small stuff. But sometimes early on you will need to do that.

How do you double down on making money from your content, possible online influence and traffic?

Here are some of the ways online publishers make money.

  1. Blog posts (these are maybe the most obvious but mainstream)
  2. Ebooks (downloads of ebooks from sponsors that allow an opt-in work well)
  3. Webinars (Running a webinar for a company that wants to reach your audience. It may include a monthly sponsorship fee plus any affiliate sales).
  4. Podcasts (Examples: CMI, Tim Ferriss and John Lee Dumas)
  5. Interviews (Mixergy has interviews that are sponsored)
  6. Training (One hour training from a supplier on some sites is even sponsored)
  7. Sponsored channels (One specific channel can be sponsored and Instagrammers sit in that box)
  8. Premium content access for monthly subscription: Putting your best content behind a subscription paywall such as interviews, in depth resources and training and even the community is a tried and proven method. Low cost plugins for WordPress such as Wishlist Member can provide the platform for that.
  9. Affiliate revenue: Affiliate has had a bad name in some circles but making sure you are offering quality products that suit you audience is still a value add and should be in the mix in some form
  10. Kindle ebook – Creating a 50-100 page ebook that you sell on Amazon (or your own site as a PDF) is attractive for writers.
  11. Banner advertising – This is harder as the amount you receive per 1,000 impressions is now very low. But it can provide some source of revenue. This works best for the big end of town.
  12. Sponsored banners in your email templates the allow you to click through to a sponsors landing page


These are not prescriptive and you will need to find your own sweet spot. This is also not the full list and there are many more ways

You can combine them….mix them up. Package them.

But find the place where you love playing and feel at home. And works.

That will mean testing, experimenting and pivoting.

So….in this fast moving world only the paranoid will survive.

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