Publishing isn’t the money maker it used to be. With a huge amount of content constantly shared across channels, everyone from freelancers to international powerhouse publishers have to find new ways to make publishing pay.
For those making a living in the modern media industry, this means trialling different formats to keep audiences interested, launching new revenue streams, and gating content behind paywalls. For those in the PR and comms industry, all this change – ‘out of all recognition is an understatement,’ says journalist and author Tanith Carey – comes with the need to keep informed on how they can help.
Let’s go behind the publishing paywall to find out what’s paying off in revenue and engagement…
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News-avoiders need to be enticed back
News avoidance is on the up in the UK as people turn away from negativity and, instead, self-soothe with streaming and scrolling. This has huge ramifications for news publishers.
Journalism innovation and inclusion consultant Shirish Kulkarni believes the news exists to make sense of what’s going on in the world and that the news model needs to realign to sense making. As an example of this, Tortoise Media has taken a ‘slow news’ approach with its publishing. Its Sensemaker newsletter and ThinkIn sessions enable audiences to fully engage with the stories that actually matter to them, providing both value and clarity on current events.
The numbers have to be right
As shared by Times Media’s director of subscriber retention Abdullah Ahmed at Journalism.co.uk’s Newsrewired event, the cost of acquiring a subscriber can be three to four times more than keeping a current one. This invites a crucial question: how do you retain readers during times of economic strain?
The Washington Post’s head of consumer product marketing and subscription Anna Lorch believes that with so much free content available, people are only willing to shell out for something genuinely relevant to them. Publishers are increasingly using data analytics to inform their retention strategies and create more relevant content.
Going local can pay off
Trust in the media is down in the UK, but local news fairs a lot better – providing it’s actually rooted in the community it serves. According to Public Interest News Foundation founder Jonathan Heawood, locally-owned media gets a net positive trust score. These publishers bridge the disconnect that can happen when news is filtered down from larger umbrella organisations – a great example of this are Social Spider’s community newspapers.
The audience wants their say
Find vox pops a bit cringe? Bad news: they’re still relevant. According to deputy head of newsgathering at Sky News, Sarah Whitehead, vox pops are much more than just another way to inform viewers. In recent years, Sky News has opened up its content to the audience with regular Q&As, bringing them back into the story (and encouraging shares on social when the segment has aired, naturally).
Social media is the new testing ground for journalists
Building up a following doesn’t happen overnight, but a dedicated readership can be a shortcut to commissions and clicks for individual journalists with bills to pay.
‘Coasting’ author Elise Downing mentioned social media as the place for journalists to try new things during a June Journo Resources webinar. The Reels on Instagram getting the most views, the videos driving the majority of traffic on YouTube, the Facebook posts generating the most content – all are a conduit to an audience, and with an audience, hopefully, come commissions.
Stories will always be an endless font
As consumers have increasingly moved from print to screens, publishing has drastically changed. Journalist and author Julie Cook, who started her career at South West News 24 years ago, remembers the ‘heady’ times that were publishing in the 90s, when ‘there was lots of money around, lots of promotions. It was really exciting’.
‘That’s all changed now,’ Julie says. ‘Magazines are selling fewer copies and the pay has not increased in years. It’s harder to sell stories now – but can still be done if you’re canny.
‘It may be a very uncertain time, but in true life, health and tabloid writing, there is one thing that will NEVER run out – that’s people’s stories.
‘They are an endless font.’
People still want stories – to tell them, read them, watch them, engage with them. As long as there’s an audience out there, the creative industries – journalists and PRs included – will be able to find them. Providing that what they’re creating is worth checking out.
Now you know what’s happening behind the publishing paywall, get in touch with relevant media with tips in our latest white paper with Wadds Inc.’s Stephen Waddington ‘From pitching to getting published: A PR’s guide to media relations in 2023’.