Top business models for publishers – Part I

Jul 1, 2020 | Articles

Andrea Burgueño

Andrea Burgueño


Publishers have been working hard to overcome the current crisis and the effort will pay off not just now, but also, in the long term. Why? Because by innovating they are diversifying too. And diversity is the a premise for building sustainable business models. In other words: apart from scalability, diversity provides also sustainability. But… how does it work? Well, here are the top business models for publisher to increase their revenue streams! Ready?

Selling branded content

Although it means making an extra effort to adapt advertisers’ identity and materials to the publisher’s media, it is a very interesting option for several reasons. Sometimes the connection between the product or brand and the editorial line of the publisher is really organic. This means that the content production, even if it’s branded, it’s going to be coherent and naturally aligned with the daily work, the audience and the goals of the publisher.

This is a business model has a clear advantage. It allows publishers, e.g. Condé Nast and CNBC, to use their content creation expertise and capabilities to build editorial and creative teams able to do the job that some agencies can’t do. Publishers can get a piece of what used to be the cake of many traditional advertising agencies. They only need to work on cost-effective structures and a great relationship with their potential clients.

Developing new products and services

This is the most common move right now and it is working pretty well. The Wall Street Journal has not only launched a new magazine, but also, new advertising products. Politico has now a newsletter, Business Insider launched a video series. Bloomberg has a new digital series as well and The New York Times has a live blog. Some other publishers are exploring the podcast territory too.

The ability to create content is so powerful that it goes beyond the format and this is key. This allows publishers to reach, produce and adapt to an unlimited audience.

Micropayments & subscriptions

When the content is good, people are happy to pay for it. The process of building a loyal audience takes time and requires to put a lot of work into the content production. Selecting the topics and curating the pieces is just what every publisher should do. However, it does not always happen that way. This means that quality is probably the best way to stand out.

In many cases, e.g. newspapers, quality also means credibility and a coherent editorial line. Think about The New York Times or The Washington Post, for instance. People read a specific newspaper or a blog because they like its “personality”. They like the style, the way the topics have been addressed, etc. This is key to build a community, which is more than an audience. It’s a loyal audience, keen to subscribe and pay for content.


Although a membership and a subscription are similar, they are not the same. A subscription unlocks premium content or just the latest news before everyone else can read it.

However, a membership offers much more than just pure content. Memberships relate to the idea of being part of a club, meaning they are all about experiences. Think about The Atlantic, for example. Members have access to other products, like discounts, premiers or events. This still happens in the new normal. Though, the situation has forced publishers to rethink these events too. The result? Another type of content production. Event- like content can become a permanent product of many membership packages.


These are just a few possibilities. Probably the most common ones. Almost every publisher has explored them or at least thought about them.

However, there are many others, but you will have to wait until next week to learn more about business models for publishers. Stay tuned!

Why is branded content beneficial for publishers?

Branded content is a good way to collaborate and secure a partnership with a brand, since it provides a specialized service to brands. It provides brands credibility and it also helps create a great relationship with their clients.

What formats can publishers use to increase their revenue?

Apart from branded content, other successful formats include micropayment, subscriptions and membership deals and the development of new products and services.

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