Content Business Model Alternatives & When to Quit

How to pivot to new content models post Google apocalypse

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Welcome to this week's issue of the Niche Media Publishing Newsletter.

Before getting started, a quick note from our sponsor.

Why are most email courses so bad?

Things we can all agree on:

  1. Email is cool now

  2. Teaching is a great way to sell

  3. Lead magnets get leads

An email course should be an exceptional lead magnet, but there’s a big difference between getting leads and converting them.

Top creators have used this course to create lead magnets, standalone products, agency work, and more.

Get the course today and see why 7-figure creator Dickie Bush got “Actionable takeaways within 5 minutes of digging in. Huge value.”

Ok, let’s get started with this week’s topic.

A Path Forward: New Content Models

Last week I discussed Google traffic alternatives (check it out ICYMI). The assumption here was that getting non-Google traffic to your site is still profitable with your old monetization model.

But traffic might not be enough to turn the tide. Mastering Facebook traffic (or Pinterest, Reddit, etc…) to arbitrage display ads and affiliate may not present the same ROI.

Assuming you successfully add new traffic sources, the future of programmatic ad-based business models is also under pressure (privacy concerns, poor reader alignment).

So What are Good Alternative Revenue Models for Content Brands?

I’ve been doing a full inventory of all of our brands, as well as exploring new brand concepts with some of the following monetization methods in mind:

  • Membership Model: For truly premium content, charging a recurring (monthly or annual) fee can be an option. B2B or trade industry content is a more likely fit, but enthusiast or hobby content might work as well (Patreon, others). Heck, newspapers thrived for 100+ years on this model AND sold ads. A simple way to start would be Beehiiv or Substack, but a paid community would be even better assuming you can seed initial membership.

  • Directory Model: Does your niche feature a variety of brands? Or maybe has brick and mortar equivalents? Launching a directory listing monetization model is a great way to generate sticky revenue. For example, if you have a dog site, consider a directory of “Dog Grooming in X” location. A good example of this at massive scale is PsychologyToday, a massive directory for mental health professionals.

  • Niche Job Boards: I think many niche content brands have the potential here to add job boards for their industry, given that they’ve already niched down. Software like NiceJob make it fairly easy to launch.

  • Consulting / Coaching: For certain high-end markets like B2B software sales and travel planning (honeymoons?), there’s an interesting model where you just offer 1-to-1 advice, with the website as the front end and a direct calendar link or phone number to speak to a live person. This is what travel agencies have done (and still do) and sites like TechnologyAdvice have made millions doing behind the scenes.

  • Marketing Services: Own one of the top niche brands in your market? Consider offering content marketing or performance marketing services directly on your site. If you still have enough relevant traffic, you can basically use your content brand as your virtual business card AND ensure a performance floor by leveraging your own ad inventory + placements to jumpstart any campaign.

  • Paid Courses: One of my favorite ways to dramatically change the value per visitor. IF you truly have domain expertise, or have a team of creatives that does, even a basic $37 course opens up a world of possibilities. Bonus points if you can pare with consulting and/or membership models. Platforms like Podia make it a breeze to launch courses.

  • Dropshipping: Margins might be better than typical affiliate commissions here, and each customer also becomes an email subscriber, opening up transactional commerce email strategies. A side benefit is that Google might magically reconsider your search categorization once you add a checkout cart.

  • Books / eBooks: Almost every niche could benefit from a digital or physical book. Bonus points if you can co-distribute on a platform like Amazon to also generate organic sales and brand awareness. Amazon has a “CreateSpace” program for easily creating physical copies. Have a travel site? Consider a local information guide. This category has been going strong from 100+ years. Run a recipe site, consider launching a cookbook. Use your IP to your advantage.

  • Paid Templates: Specific content profiles may lend themselves to simple (helpful) downloadable templates. This play may not be immediately obvious, but likely an option for hobby blogs, crafting sites, career oriented sites, or design niches.

This week’s sponsor actually teaches a very specific “email based” course methodology:

Why are most email courses so bad?

Things we can all agree on:

  1. Email is cool now

  2. Teaching is a great way to sell

  3. Lead magnets get leads

An email course should be an exceptional lead magnet, but there’s a big difference between getting leads and converting them.

Top creators have used this course to create lead magnets, standalone products, agency work, and more.

Get the course today and see why 7-figure creator Dickie Bush got “Actionable takeaways within 5 minutes of digging in. Huge value.”

Getting Hybrid with Your Models

I also think there are some really interesting hybrid models!

Just because you offer high end consulting, doesn’t mean you can’t also leverage some display ads, or affiliate, directory placements, etc...

If you can combine 2, 3, or even 4+ models… that’s a more durable business with more optionality.

One of my favorite non-obvious hybrid model examples is MANNIX, and upstate New York local marketing agency that ALSO owns and operates high end local information and directories:

Imagine going to a local business on Lake George and pitching them your marketing services…. oh by the way… we OWN, the top local information site in the area that captures 100% of the eyeballs you care about (sorry. the local newspaper went out of business years ago).


Looking across our Google-heavy portfolio, there are plenty of sites where a traffic substitution method makes sense. Similarly, there are some where a new model (like courses, directories, etc…), makes sense.

But there are also some content brands that ONLY make sense as a Google satellite businesses. This gets us to the “when to quit” consideration…

When to Fold Em’

If your media brands aren’t ideal for leveraging any of the different models mentioned above AND you’ve been hit by Google… it may be time to pack it in.

Or, at least lower your expectations and reinvest elsewhere. I feel badly for a lot of great product review sites, for this reason. There may not be a great monetization OR traffic pivot to make up the difference. I’m not sure how much space there is for many niched down Consumer Reports models.

For other basic information sites (think: troubleshooting your iPhone), there likely isn’t a clear monetization pivot away from display advertising.

That said, this same disruption creates opportunities, if you can see them. This certainly involves a non-traditional underwriting process.

When to Arb Em’

When one model fails, there’s all sorts of “spare parts” media brands to sift through.

If you can see the value others don’t, or have a different playbook, things get interesting…

Here are some profiles I’m seeing in the wild:

  • An ad-based fandom blog that’s declined 80% (or received a manual Google penalty), but has a large 20k+ email list. Underwrite it as a newsletter business.

  • A declining (search traffic) fashion blog with a sizable Pinterest following and direct traffic. Underwrite it as a Pinterest account / strategy.

  • A penalized travel blog with a 500+ library of high quality, location specific content. Underwrite it as a library of IP, useful for Pinterest, Facebook, email marketing material, or even premium (paid) guides.

There are MANY impacted blogs that have high quality content, but are “collateral damage” from the recent Google updates.

At the very minimum, there’s an opportunity to underwrite the content IP. You can do a lot with premium content acquired for 10% of what it would cost to source it today.

One thing this strategy typically does NOT involve is looking at a pro forma Profit & Loss statement.

Tool Spotlight: Strevio

Today’s featured tool is one that I’m actually paying for & using in our business… Strevio!

Strevio is a Facebook super tool on steroids. It combines powerful scheduling features and deep insights into what’s working. The more shares your account has the more valuable the insights are.

Over time, with Strevio I’ve been able to:

  • Re-share our most engaged posts

  • Create more related content around our top posts

  • Experiment with new formats and measure results

Best of all, it’s automated, meaning very little tedious post formatting and copy. once you have a performing feed, it’s very close to an evergreen content library.

P.S. They also have a really cool new competitor intelligence feature where you can track what other similar Facebook pages are sharing and what’s working for them.

My Offer: If you sign up using my link here (affiliate) & respond to this email, I’d be happy to do a free 30 minute consulting call to help you get setup (if needed). 

This is a service company we run, reach out if you need content wizards!

Other Newsletters Worth Following

Here are some other publications I subscribe to, author, or co-sign.

Fresh Salmon is a great marketing read at the intersection of content & commerce:

If you are operating a newsletter (or even just interested), this next one is one of my “must opens” every week:

If you leverage affiliate relationships in your media business, Affiliate Insider is where I share my in-the-field experience.

Our COO (Amy), publishes an incredibly detailed and thoughtful newsletter for content marketers here:

Content Forward: Thoughts from the Front LinesWeekly deep dives & insights from a real operator, for creators seeking an edge. New insights every Friday evening!

We also cover the latest MarTech trends and deep dives with a monthly (soon to be weekly) newsletter for B2B operators:

MarTech ToolkitDiscover & Implement marketing tech in your business.

OK, that's it for this week...

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