If you’ve been online for any length of time, and particularly if you own a business or do any online marketing, then you are likely familiar with the phrase “content is king.” It used to be the mantra among content marketers, and I guess it still is. But what few content marketers, even today, realize is that content is not so much a business model as it is the fuel that runs an online business.
There are many different online business models. Yet, every one of them is in the publishing business. Even brick-and-mortar businesses that publish content online are in the publishing business. You can’t escape it.
When I talk to people about their online marketing goals, I try to drive this point home. No matter what kind of business you run, if you produce online content for any purpose, you’re a publisher. That’s an important sticking point, but many business owners don’t think of themselves as publishers. I think they should.
5 Online Business Models That Rely on Publishing Great Content
There are hundreds of online business models. I’m just going to talk about five. But each of these business models requires content. In order for that content to reach its intended audience, it has to be published. Who’s going to publish it? Ideally, it would be the business being promoted, but it doesn’t have to be. A business might earn media exposure, in which case, it is the publication featuring them that is the publisher. Now, here they are, five business models that rely on content publishing:
- E-commerce website – E-commerce is one of the oldest business models on the internet. Amazon opened its doors in 1994. That makes the company older than Google. Starting with nothing but books, the idea was to become the world’s largest book store. They did that. Now, they’re the world’s largest department store. It doesn’t matter what you sell, if you sell anything online, you need content. You need product descriptions. You need content that attracts potential buyers, persuades them to buy your merchandise, and come back for more. An e-commerce store with great product descriptions and other content is much like the old Sears & Roebuck mail order catalogs your grandparents ordered from. Sears & Roebuck was a department store, but they were also a publisher. So is Amazon. So are you if you do e-commerce.
- Information portal – Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. We won’t get into the issue of trust, but Wikipedia has millions of web pages, all packed with information. And it’s very popular. Niche websites may publish information on health, travel, literature, cars, sex, or any number of other topics. Unlike e-commerce websites, the primary revenue channel for information portals isn’t merchandise. It could be advertising, donations, sponsored content, premium information products, or several other money-making channels. Nevertheless, information portals are in the content publishing business.
- News publications – This is a no-brainer. Newspapers have a long history of publishing the latest in current events and earning revenues from advertising. In the 19th century, they published literature alongside the news. In the 20th century, news agencies developed standards for objective reporting. In the early 21st century, we’ve seen a mass migration from print to online publishing. It’s still publishing.
- Independent artisan – Artisanal publishing is a class of its own. The success of Amazon has given rise to the independent author who publishes their own books. Many have sold millions, and some have gone on to sign contracts with major print publishing houses. But other artisans can also get into the publishing game. Visual artists can publish their creations online, and even sell them. Crafters can do the same. In a way, this fits into the e-commerce model, however, I give artisanal publishing its own category because the artisan is in business to sell his own creations whereas an e-commerce website is often in business to sell the creations of others.
- Social media – Social media is an interesting phenomenon. While it is often viewed as an inbound marketing channel–which it is–it is also a brand new publishing model. Facebook allows artisans, housewives, and everyone else an avenue for creating content that generates interest, creates buzz, and drives traffic to the point of sale. Instagram and Pinterest do the same in a more visual way. YouTube is social media for video production, a type of publishing. Steemit is a blockchain-based social media publishing platform that allows creators a way to earn from each post and from interacting with the content that others produce. Similar blockchain-based social publishing platforms are currently in production.
Making Money Online Relies on Content Publishing
To some degree, virtually every type of money-making opportunity online relies on publishing. Whether the publishing that is being done is for the purpose of marketing a product or service, promoting a brand, selling items directly, or simply for information purposes, the fact remains, we are all publishers now.
It’s important to understand this because your success as a business person, an author or other artisan, an information publisher, or whatever category you place yourself in depends a great deal on how good at publishing you become. It’s important to learn the tools of the trade so that you can beat the competition. I will use this column in the future to discuss online publishing strategies for a variety of business purposes. Welcome to the World Wide Web of Publishing.