Marrying Your Print and Digital Revenue Development


If you’re a digital publisher, it’s easy to be discouraged when you repeatedly read about digital revenue streams falling short when it comes to making up for declines in print revenue.

But there is plenty of encouraging news too, as the concept of a print publication evolves into the concept of an information factory producing content for print, web, and mobile platforms. In fact, developing print and digital revenue together is proving to be a smart move for publishers. Not only does it reduce duplicated effort, but it also allows your organization to be nimbler and more flexible as the print to digital evolution proceeds apace. Here are some tried and proven ways that print and digital revenue development can be done together.

Sponsored Content for Both Print and Web Can Be Bundled

Sponsored content and native advertising can be done digitally and in print at the same time. Sponsored inserts have long been a feature of newspapers, and sponsored content online is receiving increased attention, as various big digital publishers have successfully developed different types of sponsored content. Some of the sites that have had success with various types of sponsored content include the Onion (Onion Labs), Forbes, Mashable, Buzzfeed, and the Washington Post.

Print and Online Subscriptions Together Have Been Successful

According to KnowledgeBridge, packaging print and digital subscriptions together is becoming an increasingly successful strategy. Consumers have taken surprisingly well to digital subscriptions, even when they’re significantly more expensive than print subscriptions. An article in the Wall Street Journal from January 2013 quotes Condé Nast President Bob Sauerberg as saying that print subscribers to Condé Nast magazines who chose to sign up for digital subscriptions renewed at a subscription rate 25% higher than the print rate. Other publishers that have successfully charged a premium for digital subscriptions (whether bundled with print or not) include Hearst, Bonnier Corp., and the Economist.

Advertising Packages Including Print and Digital Are Effective and Popular

Though publishers are turning more attention to developing non-advertising revenue streams, ad revenue is still critical to most publications, and digital/print advertising packages are one way publishers are satisfying advertiser needs while maximizing ad revenues. The Arizona Daily Star, for example, offers “Green Tag Tuesdays” displaying a fixed number of discount offers in print coupled with scannable QR codes for advertisers, and this been well-received by advertisers and consumers alike. Successfully coupling print and digital ads generally requires that ad directors and account executives have enough autonomy to negotiate contracts without an onerous bureaucratic process, and this can be a big change for many publishers. But that change has proved well worthwhile for some.

Digital and print ad combination packages are lucrative for publishers and satisfy advertiser needs well.
Digital and print ad combination packages are lucrative for publishers and satisfy advertiser needs well.

Online Job Boards Don’t Have to Cannibalize Print Advertising

The Society of Hospital Medicine, which has 6,000 members wanted to create an online job board without cannibalizing print ads. So they worked to get internal and external stakeholders to cooperate and make print and online ads work together rather than competing against one another. They educated employers on the value of utilizing both print and online job advertising and made it easier for employers to choose both options together. As a result, more than 70% of the organization’s employers chose the print/online job ad combination, and recruitment ad revenues more than doubled. There is no reason to assume that online revenue development has to come at the expense of print revenue.

Making It All Work Together

Developing new revenue streams before traditional ones fade is ideal, but that’s not possible for every publisher. In fact, the biggest risk for many publishers would be not rethinking their business strategy in today’s publishing climate. Such changes can cause internal tensions between legacy and digital cultures in your publishing business, but working through these challenges is essential. And regardless of how you plan traditional and digital revenue development, you cannot lose focus on the quality of the editorial process. The good news is you don’t have to develop print and digital revenue streams separately. In many cases you can pair the two, avoid duplication of effort, and serve both advertisers and readers better.

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