Cover Story: The Search for Profitable Publishing
The question of whether print-advertising revenue will return to pre-recession levels still looms over many publishers' heads (and many analysts predict that it will not). So publishers not only are striving to boost online revenue and develop creative partnerships with advertisers, but also to find other ways to help offset losses suffered during the past two years, and build new business models around their content and their audiences.
"When I did the Stanford University Publishing certification program, one of the things they taught is you have to diversify your offerings. Anyone in the market at this time with print-only will not survive," says Sheila Robinson, founder and publisher of Diversity Woman.
The fact is, there are dozens of ways publishers can generate revenue, from ad sales (print, online, e-newsletters, mobile, etc.) to paid circulation, conferences and expos, list rentals, paid or sponsored webinars and virtual events (and other lead-generation programs), online training courses, reprints sales and licensing, research/reports, and custom publishing, to name a few of the more common methods.
Today, many publishers are exploring virtually every possible revenue-generating source. Ogden Publications is selling repackaged publication content in CD-ROM and book formats (one of its largest revenue sources) and has created a line of Natural Home kitchen utensils and glassware (aligned with its Natural Home magazine brand), which is being sold through its Web sites and in Target stores. The company also launched a "green" radio program, "Mother Earth News Radio," last fall (tying in with its Mother Earth magazine brand).
Marketing & Technology Group—comprised of Meatingplace (Meatingplace.com), CarneTec (CarneTec.com) and Plate (PlateOnline.com)—is a b-to-b publisher serving the U.S. and Latin American meat processing, and U.S. foodservice industries, respectively. "All brands integrate print, … Web sites, and events," says Mark Lefens, Marketing & Technology Group's president. Lefens' company got a "nice bump in 2009 with a real old-school custom publishing idea to which we added an e-twist," he says. "Plate magazine, which has won six Neal Awards [from American Business Media], due in part to its beautiful, original photography, was asked to produce a printed calendar of Plate-[level] quality for a [commodity board, Idaho Potato Commission]. The printed calendar featured a recipe for every month with a photo of the dish," he explains. "We [loaded] the 12 recipes … into the recipe archives of PlateOnline.com as a 'sponsored recipe.' Whenever a chef searches for a dish … or ingredient to which the sponsor's product is related, the sponsor's recipe and photo from the calendar displays next to [the] chef's search results."