IT would be fair to say that the majority of the Scottish Press has yet to positively embrace the internet. Now that’s not a dig at journalists – far from it. They’ve upheld their end of the bargain, providing content within ridiculous pressures.
But it is a dig at advertising teams and management.
In the rush to bemoan the state of the Press, three things are often overlooked:
1. Yes, profits are falling, but quite often the Press is still making a profit
2. As brands, they still have considerable reach and influence, ranging from a perception of professionalism to Search Engine Optimisation.
3. Their audience sizes still dwarf that of many other websites and blogs.
But when it comes to ‘monetising’ content, banner adverts seem to be the start and end of its thinking.
So here are some simple ways of helping to monetise any newspaper out there:
Reviewing games, albums, books? Interviewing authors or movie stars and providing links to their works? Talking about mobile phones or computers? At each step, include something called an Affiliate Link, which basically means that the person posting the link – often to the Amazon store – makes a little money from any resulting sale.
For readers, it doesn’t matter if they search for, say, a book on the Amazon main page, via Google or through a link on a newspaper website: the price is the same. But for a newspaper website operating an affiliate link, it could mean income.
You could even have QR codes for people to scan with their phones and be taken straight to the product.
Where this could be a real winner is in the fashion pages where, with one quick click on your phone, you could be taken to that dress or pair of shoes that you want to buy, instead of having to hunt through websites.
Actually, if a newspaper wanted to be really clever about this, it could set up a ‘double affiliate link’ so that both it and the person buying got a cut (which would encourage readers to share links).
Before anyone asks about SEO, Google isn’t the biggest fan of affiliate links but we’re at the ‘Red Alert Battle Stations’ here, folks. The good stories can still be found, and we need to be making money.
So what sections could have Affiliate Links? Are you kidding me? All review sections, plus end-of-year, fashion and holidays. Basically everything but news. Even features could be done, subtly.
No, you can’t sponsor news stories, don’t be silly. But if you have a YouTube channel, you can elect to have adverts automatically appear alongside your videos, all earning a little income. Or (more elegantly and effectively in my view) source your own sponsor or sponsors for your audio or video podcasts.
Don’t do the daft thing of just one sponsor, though. Break your podcast up into sections and have each section sponsored. News has a sponsor, the main interview has a sponsor, reviews has a sponsor, and so on. Someone wants to be a big sponsor? Then charge them an overall sponsorship fee.
Let’s put it like this: there are incredibly successful podcasts about whisky and new Scottish music out there – being done by people who have never even seen a newsroom.
People really don’t like the idea of paying for online content but there are some sectors that are more accepting of it – the business community, for example. Obviously it has to be content that’s worth paying for, but who has a better roster of must-read writers than newspapers?
Now, not one of these suggested solutions on their own is a 100 per cent winner, that’s going to always make money – but they’re a start and they are easy to apply.
Craig McGill has written for – or been a member of staff at – TIME Magazine, The Guardian, Daily Mirror, The Scotsman, Evening Times, The Press & Journal, The Sun and Evening Times. An author of four non-fiction books, he has been recently appointed a lecturer in ‘cross-platform journalism’ at Edinburgh Napier University.