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Here’s a New Way for Content Creators in Asia to Make Money: Sell Access, Not Ads

A new business model puts the control in the publisher’s hands.

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BY Dave Schools - 06 Oct 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Today, the CEO of digital magazine software company Issuu, Joe Hyrkin, announced the launch of a new product aimed at ending the era of the 'starving artist.'

The timing of the new tool, imaginatively dubbed "Digital Sales", comes at an interesting crossroads for the digital publishing industry as a whole.

Up to this point, digital media companies (i.e., news, blogs, and content sites), including Issuu publishers, have earned revenue through ads.

"Before, publishers made money by embedding photo and video ads with links," said Hyrkin in an interview with Inc. "We are now enabling media creators to build a publication business, rather than just sell ads."

Announcing the launch of 'Digital Sales' today

Digital Sales gives Issuu publishers the ability to sell digital access to their content, either in one-off sales of individual issues or subscriptions.

It's a new business model that puts the control in the publisher's hands rather than subjecting them to consumer whims and behavior, Hyrkin explained.

The tool allows Issuu's 33 million publishers to set the price, mark previews, and embed content in tweets, Facebook posts, and websites.

Issuu publishers can set any price they wish, usually around the $3-$5 monthly price, but some reaching up to the $20-$30/mo range. There's no limit.

Unlike Medium's similar but more experimental model, Issuu is transparent about its revenue model; the software company takes 30% of the sales price that publishers set. The platform integrates with Stripe to accept payments and publishers receive immediate payouts at the time a purchase is made.

Platforms that content creators can make money on without ads

Issuu is not the first to offer alternative forms of content monetization other than ad revenue. A few others come to mind:

  • Patreon - "patrons" pay to support their favorite creators and keep them creating the content they love.
  • Kickstarter - "backers" contribute money to a creator's campaign to receive the finished product when it's released.
  • Steem.io - contributors receive blockchain distribution payouts for well-received content on this cryptocurrency-backed social network.
  • Medium - members applaud stories and thereby siphon a portion of their $5 membership fee to the writer.
  • Affiliate marketing - content creators make money on their own sites by earning a small percentage of sales they generate through an affiliate link.

As of today, we can now add Issuu to this list.

  • Issuu - publishers charge readers for access to premium content.

These companies are entering blue water in the digital publishing industry--we're seeing unprecedented business models emerge as publishers and content creators attempt to get away from relying on ads to earn income.

Changing the course of history

While that model is still a mystery, the growing presence of these startups signifies a shift in media history. It used to be that only the big content houses could turn a lucrative profit.

But now with tools like Digital Sales, individuals and two-to-five person shops like Sweet Paul, a lifestyle magazine for recipes, crafts and more, and NKD, monthly online music and entertainment magazine based in NYC, can build a high-quality publication and grow their own media businesses. Ten years ago, this was impossible.

For decades, history has shown us that, for the most part, individual creativity was a path to financial struggle. But Hyrkin's mission is clear: "I want to marry thriving with creativity. The era of the 'starving artist' is being replaced with the era of the 'abundant artist.'"