KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: How to Make Money Off Editorial

Presented by Tyler Cabot with David Granger, CRMA 43rd Annual Conference  May 18-20, 2019

In a discussion Cabot, who began his career as a features and fiction editor at Esquire before he left to study journalism monetization at Harvard, and Granger, a literary agent with Aevitas Creative Management in New York and former editor in chief at Esquire, posed questions and offered answers regarding the opportunities that are available to monetize editorial content.

There are three key questions you should ask.

  1. What are you doing and why?
  2. What are you not doing? (Can you repackage what you have?)
  3. What else should you be doing?

With regards to paywalls:

Paywalls only work when you have something to offer that has that has true value.

Paywalls work best when a single person on staff takes this on as a new project – it is not an add-on job.

Be willing to try new ideas with small bets.

If you are offering Membership you can create value by offering:

  1. Single issue guides (food, education, entertainment, education, Best of … etc)
  2. Discounts to events
  3. Access to local stores in new ways
  4. Promoting events by offering incentives – thanks for attending, you now get three months free etc.

Ask yourself – how do we build this? What is the process? How do we keep the subscriber engaged once we have them?

The standard measure for success has been ‘clicks’.

The new model for success is dollars.

For example, New York Magazine’s The Strategist is blowing up. They offer reviews, deal, gift guides and recommendations for shopping on the Internet.

The New Yorker has done amazing work with their paywall. Wired also created a paywall and rumors are that it has been successful.

Audio is also blowing up. Data shows a huge increase the popularity of purchasing audio books.

Data says: Newsletters drive more subscriptions that social media.

What will people pay for?

You can’t just say to readers – you got it for free now you have to pay. You need a great product, a better product. You have to find a way to give people what they want to buy.

Esquire Classic

A curated archive of the esquire archive of more than 1,000 issues was inspired by a closet full of rotting, printed paper articles – some by greats like Hemingway and Didion. Esquire also created a podcast that drove listeners to become Esquire Classic subscribers. This was a successful venture. $5 a month to subscribe.

Cabot says in the future we’ll have to revisit design. When print first went online the major design change was to make a design that was clickable. With regard to design we now have to make an online product that is better. How will we accomplish this?

Another new and interesting idea: Netflicks is now offering a 30-day trail period where they will remind you to cancel should you choose not to subscribe.

If you want to keep your print product principal the challenge is how can that possibly be shown through a phone? Lengthy articles and creative artwork often don’t translate to digital viewing. Perhaps your digital offerings can be different than the print product? Maybe some content can be free and some paid? Digital can’t beat paper – you have to think about them differently.

Another interesting model is the Pay What you Wish Model. Can it work? Cabot says it is worth a try, but you have to be very clear on your message.

As far as the idea of micropayments, as in a pay for story model? This has been shown to create big issues in actually getting the payment. Not advisable.

There are ways to make money of editorial but you must be clear on who you are targeting, what you are going to do, why you are doing it and create a smooth process to implement these ideas with key staff charged with the success of the project.