Monetization Options for your Web Content

There are plenty of people out there in the space of internet marketing who fail to realize that affiliate marketing is first and foremost a way to monetize an online business or a personal website. It does not have to be a business at all actually, which separates it from most other methods to monetize content on the web which are depending on high volume in order to be practical.

What are the options for a content creator today? Let’s have a look at the different ways to monetize content on the Internet.

The common methods to monetize content on the Internet are:

  1. access/subscription fee
  2. display advertising
  3. sponsorships
  4. contextual ads
  5. affiliate links

Now let’s have a closer look at each method and the problems they have.

1. Access/Subscription Fee

Restricts access to the content, which is against the original idea of the “Free Internet”. It’s a valid means to monetize a site, but it becomes less and less popular and also harder to do, because the same content can often be found elsewhere, free of charge. Some publish the content just for the sake of it and others monetize it by using one or more of the other methods on the list.

2. Display Advertising

Display advertising is bulk advertising. It is the translation of TV ads to the Internet. Most websites don’t qualify as publishers, regardless how good their content is due to their volume of traffic, which is too low to make it worthwhile for Ad Networks and advertisers to deal with them. Ad buys are usually high volume and include millions of impressions. Publishers, who actually qualify for Ad deals, don’t have control over the advertisement that is shown on their site. They give control over it to Ad Networks who act on their own interest, which does not have to be aligned with those of the publisher (or advertiser for that matter) all the time.

3. Sponsorships

Direct sponsorships are not easy to come by, especially for small websites with a very niche audience. Even if a publisher would be able to attract sponsors, a potential conflict of interest is created as a result of the sponsorship. If the content of the sponsored site is related to the sponsors business (which is almost always the case), negative comments about products or services of the sponsor could cause the termination of the sponsorship deal with the advertiser. This would cause a major loss in revenue for the publisher, something most publishers are not willing to risk.

As a result, the quality and authenticity of the content itself will suffer, because it becomes more and more skewed, biased and less honest.

4. Contextual Ads

Such as Google AdSense or Yahoo! Publisher Network, to name the biggest providers in the Industry. Contextual ads are feasible and easy to use by small publishers with the main drawback that the publisher has no editorial control over what Ads are shown on his site. Ads displayed might be irrelevant and poorly targeted and in worst cases harmful for visitor who fall for them. This will in many cases reflect badly on the publisher himself too, because many people are unable to distinguish between editorial content and non-editorial contextual ads (including the ones that are labeled as such).

5. Affiliate Links

Small volume and low traffic are not a problem with affiliate links; affiliate marketing was actually created and designed for small volume niche publishers. Some of the uses of affiliate tracking today are not even traditional affiliate marketing IMO (I am talking about loyalty sites etc.). The publisher selects specifically who and what he advertises and keeps full editorial control over each and every ad The consequences of making bad recommendations will come back to him, rightfully, because he has no excuse for them, as he would have with contextual ads or display advertising. This means that a site that uses affiliate links to monetize its content can be as good or as bad as the creator of the site wants it to be.

The final judge of that will be the user who visits the site and never come back again, if it does not provide anything of value and a reason to come back to the site.

Considering those options, which one looks like the best to you?

I would be surprised, if you would answer this question with anything but “5. “, Affiliate Marketing.

Admitted, affiliate marketing has flaws as well, but those flaws are not related to what affiliate marketing actually is. This means that any of those flaws can be corrected and there exists no reason why we should accept those flaws as cost of doing business or necessary evil. There is no excuse for tolerating those evils other than greed and short term profits over long term business relationships. Those are reasons, yes, but not excuses.

Thin affiliate sites” for example, which are always used as example for what affiliate marketing is supposed to be. They do exist and if they go away, nobody will miss them. However, if all of them would be gone, affiliate marketing would still be there, stronger than ever, I might add as well. Cybersquatters and email spammers, Adware creators, content scrapers and organic search engine spammers are not necessary evils that have to be tolerated. Those things will not go away by itself, because they are way too profitable for those who engage in those practices. The only people who can do something effectively against those thugs who give the whole industry a bad name and horrible reputation are the people who operate in the industry itself and have a stake in its future. Outsiders will come and try to do something for everybody, but chances are good that those actions will hurt legitimate affiliate marketers and advertisers more than the people it intended to hit.

The federal answer to email spam was CAN-SPAM, because the direct marketing industry was not able to do something by itself against the increase in email spam. Although well indented, CAN-SPAM did have no effect at all to reduce email spam. The amount of spam in my own inbox which increased since CAN-SPAM rather than decreased is a testament to that. At the same time CAN-SPAM did cause problems for legitimate marketers who did not use shady practices while doing business.

Don’t wait for a CAN-SPAM act for the affiliate marketing industry!

It is not the question IF it will come, but WHEN, unless we, the affiliate marketing industry as a whole will do what is necessary to self regulate, outlaw bad business practices and define a code of conduct with best practices to guide newbie’s and industry veterans, publishers, advertisers, third party vendors, OPM, networks and tracking software providers. Showcase positive examples that others can follow and point out black sheep’s who refuse to obey to the code and step beyond the drawn line that outsiders will be able to distinguish between THEM and US and communicate with US to find out what can be done to eliminate THEM.

What are your thoughts? Share them with us via the comments section below. Thank you.

Cheers!

Carsten Cumbrowski
A proud Affiliate Marketer, who is not ashamed of what he is doing for a living.

About Carsten Cumbrowski

Internet Marketer, Entrepreneur and Blogger. To learn more about me and what I am doing, visit my website and check out the “about” section.

Twitter: ccumbrowski

17 Responses to Monetization Options for your Web Content

  1. jhoyy says:

    online marketing is the trend nowadays. most companies already have their own websites. it is good to earn money through the internet but one thing that is important is the customer or client. they should be taken into consideration and not just all about making money.

  2. jhoyy.. exactly!

    That's why is it important IMO that publishers of content are able to control the means by how their content is being monetized, which includes editorial control of any ads or endorsement made on their website.

    Advertisement should also not have any control of the content itself and cause content getting skewed and manipulated for the wrong reasons.

    Affiliate marketing addresses both of those concerns, none of the other methods of monetizing the content does, except for option 1), the access/subscription fee one, which has other flaws that affiliate marketing does not have.

  3. eric says:

    very informative.

  4. Where does the direct selling of products that are produced by the content creator fall into this picture?

  5. Chris, in that case is the content promotional material published with the purpose to sell a product. You hardly create a product with the purpose to monetize your content. The only exception would be what is called “merchandizing” e.g. a fan store. However, I have not heard of any fan store which generates enough profit to pay enough for the content.

  6. Carsten, you wrote "You hardly create a product with the purpose to monetize your content."

    (chuckle)

    I have!

    I have seen other bloggers do this also. Picture a blog that has a lot of useful articles, but they are not in any cohesive order. Readers say things like, "it sure would be nice to have this all in some kind of order, maybe even in a book". So then I create the book.

    I don't know, no real point here, I guess, just commenting.

  7. You are saying that you post everything on your site and then offer the same content as a book and use that as your only (or at least primary) means for monetizing the content?

    I got the same comments about content I write at my site, here at RN and SEJ and thought about it, however, I would hardly consider it a significant stream of income… supplemental income?! sure. I have no doubt about the validity of that.

    Anyhow, this is a very rare example. There are probably also 100 other very specific scenarios for how to generate some revenue from your online content, but those do are not relevant for the majority of content producers out there (including the small niche ones).

  8. Okay, I can see you shaking your head… don't deny it! 🙂

    You're absolutely right, this is a specific situation. And you did say that your choices were the most common… and they are.

    Maybe what I'm really wondering is this… is it a better long-term solution to create and sell my own products OR concentrate on affiliate marketing?

  9. Btw. Thanks for your comments Chris. I am sure that I am not the only one who appreciates them. You have valid points after all 🙂

    You made it clear that there are always different ways to do things and that you are not limited to just a handful that appear to be the only ones possible. hehe

  10. "… is it a better long-term solution to create and sell my own products OR concentrate on affiliate marketing?"

    That question is easy to answer… "create and sell my own products" 🙂

    See section 3 of my earlier post "Affiliate Marketing Beginners Checklist – Part 1"

    http://revenews.com/carstencumbrowski/affilia

    hehe

  11. tosin's blog says:

    Affiliate marketing is it when it comes to making solid cool CASH on the internet. Thumbs up to every affiliate marketer- More success to You.

  12. Great write up. I am a strong believer in diversity among monetization strategies. While affiliate links are at the top of the list, I like many, am also a big fan of contextual ads as a means for making money online. I would say the best strategy comes down to the site and content being offered.

  13. Vinoth says:

    Carsten, the above said are actually pretty common and used by many webmaster. There are few methods which I would like to share

    1. Link Sales – If your site page rank is high you can sell text links.
    2. Pay per post – You can allow some one to post an article in our blog after charging a reasonable amount. This could give the guest blogger a better exposure to your visitors.

    Thanks,
    Vinoth

  14. Murray says:

    I would like to say that out of …

    1) access/subscription fee
    2) display advertising
    3) sponsorships
    4)contextual ads
    5) affiliate links

    I find "4)contextual ads" to be the most effective Monetization model for my content website … http://www.content-website.com/index.html

  15. Murray says:

    I would like to say that out of …

    1) access/subscription fee
    2) display advertising
    3) sponsorships
    4)contextual ads
    5) affiliate links

    I find "4)contextual ads" to be the most effective Monetization model for my content website … http://www.content-website.com/index.html

  16. cassa says:

    I agree with all the option but contextual ads seems currently to be more effective for my site http://www.bunchbay.us.
    I am open to other ideas