Life beyond ad revenue?

Life beyond ad revenue?

By  Claire   |   February 21, 2012

Can newspapers survive without ad sales? (Elvert Barnes/Flickr Creative Commons)

Can newspapers survive without ad sales? (Elvert Barnes/Flickr Creative Commons)


The first words published in the Manchester Guardian on May 5, 1821, were not about the death of Napoleon I, the independence of Greece from the Ottoman Empire or the inauguration of the new American president, James Monroe. Instead, page one of the first edition of the Guardian -- a newspaper that has grown into a global leader -- ran an advertisement about a lost dog.

This precedent should not be surprising. Advertising has supported newspapers for nearly 200 years, and not in subtle ways. In the history of newspapers, page one ads have been the rule, rather than the exception. The Guardian, for example, didn't stop running ads on its front page until 1952.

The migration of content online, coupled with the collapse of advertising following the 2008 market crash, has changed this calculus. Whereas once the revenue stream was practically guaranteed by corporate and classified ads, today they are less certain, even for established publications. In Q4 of 2011, for example, the New York Times reported a 7.1 percent cumulative decrease in advertising revenue (print decreased by 7.8 percent, digital by 4.9 percent). The Times' experience is far from unique. Yahoo! and Gannett experienced similar dips in Q4 of last year.

As a publication, making headway in this headwind is a challenge; one that forces editors to recast expectations and rethink the business model. Many publications have placed content behind a paywall in order to raise additional revenue. For publications interested in meeting the bottom line, a paywall is far from the only option.

Five other innovative strategies to raise revenue include:

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