When will we think of revenue models outside of advertising online?

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

Facebook Live now allows broadcasters to take commercial breaks. All in the name of innovative revenue models. Or something like that.

The thing is, many of us moved our consumption from traditional channels to digital channels so we could avoid endless interruptions with TV commercials and maybe even unnecessary print ads in magazines and newspapers.

But with all the innovation happening out there, why can’t we come up with better revenue models than those that have existed for decades? Seriously, we are just copying what has been done offline.

Sure, sure, sure. In the online space, we can target people based on their interests, job titles, locations, etc. And when that’s actually done well, it can be useful for the consumer and good for the advertiser. For the most part, the ads I see over and over and over are just as worthless the twelfth time seeing them as they were the first time. And I won’t lie, I have ads on this site, and it’s nice to get ad revenue transferred from Google every once in a while. But ads are usually a time waster and are a big reason I moved from TV to YouTube, Netflix and Amazon viewing. Many people use ad blockers, too.

Recommended reading: 

How YouTube owns my prime time TV viewing

However, print is not dead!

Social media and digital channels have transformed how we communicate and get our information in many ways. I read newspapers through Twitter notifications, for example. More on Twitter notifications here.

But the revenue models of social media and many other digital channels always seem to come back to the same thing that newspapers and TV have done for decades: Advertising.

That’s not that innovative.

Revenue models: How to monetize your blog!

Even bloggers can think only of ads as a revenue stream, but it’s not working because most bloggers don’t make any money off of ads. When I mention there are other ways to monetize a blog, many are surprised.

Even with 30,000-70,000 monthly visitors on here, there’s some ad revenue coming in, but it’s not nearly enough to say that the blog’s ad revenue is putting much food on the table. Many blogs do not get monetized by the ad revenue they do or could receive. They make money by raising awareness for related products. For my blog, here’s the product list, if you wish:

  • Buy copies of my books
  • Hire me to speak
  • Hire me to train your team
  • Hire me to work with your company

Then there are other things on here that people can do that help us connect further, but that aren’t necessarily transactional:

  • Sign up for my email
  • Follow me on social media
  • Share my articles
  • And let’s not forget about: Read my articles.

Revenue models: What will it take for advertising to die?

Even when I began a local news start-up and quickly penetrated about 25 percent of the market, I relied on ad revenue. It was the default revenue stream it appeared. At some point, I probably could have branched out into selling subscriptions to maybe a print version, selling T-shirts and who knows what else. But ad revenue seemed to be the standard approach.

As much as some new-school disruptors out there are saying that advertising is dead or dying, given how much money people spend on it, it obviously is not. The Ad Contrarian Blog by Bob Hoffman often talks about the facts surrounding the truth. Read it here, if you like. Warning: Sometimes the language is strong.

Related: Why not to worry about the “industry standard”

That’s really the bottom line: If we – the marketers and our bosses – are happy with the outcomes no matter how small the numbers (“but they are better than the industry average”), we will continue. And maybe it doesn’t have to die if it’s working, according to the person setting the expectations.

And then, of course, we might not have other options at our disposal to reach the audiences we need to reach in the time we have. For example, I spent very little on promoting this storytelling and content marketing blog to grow it over the last few years. In 2016, the third year, there were over 200,000 readers. That’s a fantastic number, but it took me three years to achieve. Often, marketers don’t get that kind of time. Many new chief marketing officers have less than two years to show results. Any results. Spending a lot of money on advertising accelerates success.

Ads on social media are similar. In February 2017, I posted a Facebook post that was seen by around 5 people. Once I spent $50 to promote it (aka make it an ad) it was seen by about 20,000 people. I gained some new followers and about 200 clicked over to the website to find out more. The promotion didn’t lead to any speaking bookings (the post sent people to my speaking page), but it certainly helped me get my message in front of more people.

Book me to speak here.

Just like any other marketing techniques that people in general say are annoying, they will continue as long as they work:

  • Cold calling still works just enough
  • Those pesky popups asking you to sign up for email newsletters – they work just well enough
  • Direct messages on Twitter are annoying, yes, but they work. More on that here.

There are other examples, I’m sure, and all the “annoying” things will die when they stop showing a return.

Even though you and I might not be clicking on ads, enough people are to make it worthwhile for marketers to keep spending money on it.

Recommended reading:

Multiple channels of advertising still important

Having realistic expectations in content marketing is half the battle


Aside from using the content machine to sell related products, I’m not sure what else the new revenue models could be. But in this age of constant innovation, certainly somebody, somewhere will come up with something new.