If Facebook Only Makes Pennies Per User, What Can YOU Do?

10 Ways To Generate Content Revenues (Without Advertising)

Generate Content RevnuesUnlike Facebook, I routinely turn down advertising offers.

My publisher father thinks this is sacrilegious. He says, “Any revenues your content generates are good.”

A quick glance at Actionable Marketing Guide and you’ll notice 2 key elements:  a ton of high quality, easy-to-use marketing information (Hey—it’s in the name!) and the lack of advertising. 

WHY?  While ads would accrue some low level of sales, they’d detract from the quality and credibility of Actionable Marketing Guide. In the process, I’d loose both readers and potential clients.

Okay but what does this have to do with Facebook’s $2.91 billion in advertising revenues?

Despite a healthy 27% profit margin, Facebook only made $0.60 per user in 2Q2014 based on Feliz Stalder’s quick and dirty analysis highlighted in The Atlantic.

To put this in perspective, Facebook has to keep you on their site for a full hour to earn $0.01. Think about how long your visitors spend on your site per quarter!!!Generate Content Revnues

The good news for Facebook is they’re fortunate enough to have 1.32 billion users. With this massive number of participants and buckets of, often very, very personal, data about them, Facebook was highly profitable. (Here’s my analysis of Facebook’s 2013 year-end results and my pre-IPO Facebook forecasts.)

So what can you do as an ordinary publisher, blogger or media organization to generate content revenues?

3 Ways to generate content revenues

There are 3 ways to generate content revenues. You can use one or more of these options together.3 Sources of Content Revenues

  1. Advertising. These are the marketing messages of other companies inserted into or along side of your content.  They come in a wide variety of types and pricing models. (Bear in mind that while Facebook makes billions, it’s a result of having a massive audience that spends a ton of time on their site.)
  2. Subscription.  Readers pay to have access to this content for period of time.
  3. Fee products. This encompasses various fee-based products purchased on one time basis. (Note: In an earlier article, fee products were divided into content products, ancillary products and affiliates. It has a useful pricing chart.)

5 Reasons people pay for content

To develop content revenue streams, start by understanding what gets visitors to pay for content in this information-rich landscape.

  1. Helps your audience make money. If you’re offering information that enables your audience to make money, then they’re highly likely to pay for it. This is one of the reasons financial information is expensive.
  2. Saves your audience money. Again this is what you can do to help your readers financially. This was the motivation behind Consumer Reports.
  3. Is scarce or difficult for your audience to ascertain. In essence your content acts like a service. Research firms like Gartner and Forrester are shining examples. Their blogs show how they’ve had to adapt the availability of free information.
  4. Aids product usage. Provides the user manual. This is the reason that the Dummies guides are so successful.
  5. Enhanced or repackaged information. Make it easier for your audience to consume and use information that’s available elsewhere.

3 Places to look for content revenue ideas

If you’re looking to create new content revenues, here are 3 places to look for ideas.

  1. Examine your offering and internal strengths. Before starting to create new products from scratch, determine if you’ve got hidden gems within your content assets. Identify which existing proprietary information and content customers consider “must have” and/or are willing to pay for.
  2. Know your audience. As with any marketing, start by understanding what makes your target audience tick. To this end create a marketing persona to ascertain the types of products and services for which your audience might pay. Ask yourself if there are products that could easily be developed to meet consumer needs?
  3. Look at the products your competitors and other niches have. Consider if you could enhance the idea and create something new that your audience would buy.

10 Way to generate content revenues (without using advertising)

Here are 10 forms of content products that generate revenues not monetized on CPM basis. That said, generally, only a small percentage of your visitors will purchase.

  1. Premium content. This is gated content for which your audience is willing to pay a fee. It can take the form of a forum or other service.
  2. Tools and software. Many online products provide a limited free version of their offering to build a userbase. They charge a fee for enhanced functionality. Virtual products, such as game enhancements, would fall into this category.
  3. Books (in physical or ebook format). Contain information that was previously published or was specially created.
  4. Downloads. Repackage content into modules that your target audience can use at their leisure. Include a variety of media formats to provide additional value. This works well for conferences and events.
  5. Conferences. Create a live event around a related topic to drive attendee, sponsor and ad revenue.
  6. Live events. Encompass training sessions, tours, and talks. The key is to provide additional value based on who presents and who attends.
  7. Online events. Extend your offering to include special paid or sponsored Webinars or Webcasts.
  8. Niche products. Consider how your content serves unique markets and develop special products for them. Two examples that stand out are Premium Crosswords from The New York Times with special online features and Cartoonbank.com from The New Yorker where it’s possible to buy cartoon prints as well as related products.
  9. Content licensing. This is an important revenue stream for some publishers. It includes the use of content as well as related branded product.
  10. Research. Offer your company’s repackaged or primary research.
  11. BONUS: Affiliate marketing. These are sales of other people’s products that yield a fee for each purchase.


While Facebook only makes pennies per user, you can profitably monetize your media to generate content revenues. The key is to not depend on highly competitive, low priced advertising.

Instead examine the various ways that you can add value to your content to entice your readers to pay for information.

Use a mix of content revenue streams to maximize your bottom line.

What content-related products have you created and what was the key to your success?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen



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