Growth — every media company strives to achieve it. And yet, many business strategies are unsuccessful in driving continuous, long-term growth. 

So what kind of growth tactics are the most worthwhile and effective for media companies?

It’s quickly becoming clear that organizations that position their audiences at the center of their growth strategies set themselves up for ongoing success and stability. 

As a writer for Columbia Journalism Review put it, there’s a “need for better media structures — in which readers are no longer audiences, but partners in the work.”

This means that organizations must do more than deliver content and products that align with their brands. Instead, it’s essential for media companies to prioritize their audiences and work with them to create engaging content, products and experiences that support and represent their digital visitors. 

Explore the following text to find out why audience-first business strategies are necessary if you want your organization to survive and grow within the industry.

The Connection Between Reader Revenue and Sustainable Revenue

In the past, the media industry was mainly fueled by advertising revenue. But when the pandemic caused marketers to slash advertising budgets and block ads near specific keywords, the world saw that advertising revenue couldn’t sustain organizations on its own. 

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Now, publishers need to unlock new revenue sources that they can control, completely free from third-party organizations.

That’s where reader revenue comes in.

By monetizing readers directly on their digital properties, media companies can break free of their dependence on third parties, like advertisers and social media, and become self-sustaining. 

“Reader revenue directly supporting your business is something that you have control over and can continue to grow,” says Amalie Nash, SVP of local news and audience development at Gannett. 

As organizations engage and nurture their digital audiences — on their own terms — they can increase loyal followers who are willing to pay and keep paying for premium content and experiences. In other words, these dedicated, paying subscribers provide a robust and stable source of revenue. 

Funke Mediengruppe, a German media organization, also notes that one digital subscriber brings in 11 times more revenue than a person who reads free, ad-supported content.

Embracing an audience-first business strategy allows media organizations to earn and maximize sustainable revenue.

People Will Support Brands They Care About

When you put your audience at the center of your business growth plan, you can transform ordinary website visitors into engaged, paying brand advocates. 

That was the case for Zetland, a Danish publishing company that established strong relationships with its visitors and encouraged them to become loyal brand ambassadors. 

Through an ambassador campaign, digital community members were asked to support the brand by finding new members to join Zetland’s community. Zetland brought in thousands of new paying members by the end of the campaign, with 346 consumers participating as active ambassadors. 

In this scenario, Zetland formed an effective business strategy by highlighting the value its organization offered to digital visitors before asking for support. 

You can deliver additional value to your own visitors through on-site, engaging experiences and trusted content. As a result, ordinary visitors can become so much more than paying community members: They’ll become fans of your brand who actively want to help grow your company’s digital community. 

Erin O’Mara, president of The Nation, explains that “an engaged community is really meaningful, not just the way they interact… but also how they can be ambassadors.”

Extracting Actionable Data From a Connected, Engaged Audience

No growth strategy is complete in the media industry without a plan to collect audience data and draw useful insights to inform business decisions. These data insights can personalize on-site experiences to attract and captivate visitors continuously. 

With two-thirds of consumers willing to give up their private details for personalized, convenient services, media organizations can tap into a wealth of knowledge about potential and existing community members.

You can also use your visitor data to run targeted, high-performing advertisements right on your digital properties. 

At the end of the day, there’s no need to guess what kinds of content and experiences will win over your audience. Not when you can find out directly from their data. 

Your audience has the power to help your business thrive, regardless of anything that may be disrupting the industry. You simply need a data-informed, audience-first business strategy to transform visitors into engaged community members loyal to your brand.

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