Grow Your Business with These Three Resolutions

Maybe you’re sick of being asked about your 2018 resolutions, but note that research has proven they’re worthwhile: people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.

Let’s skip all the resolutions around diet, exercise, and smoking and focus on ones that will make you more money in 2018 – and beyond. For those niche publishers who are still seeking their New Year’s Resolutions – look no further than this list of three:

1. Go out and talk to your readers and customers.

Commit to speaking with at least five readers and at least five advertisers (if you’re sponsored) this month.  Be a good product manager.  First, figure out what problems you solve for your readers and advertisers.  Then, figure out how you are doing that better than any other option out there.  Next, ask them what you can do to be even better at solving this problem.  Finally, figure out what new problems they have that no one else has a reasonable solution for yet.

Use the input you get from this research to better prioritize your initiatives for 2018.

2. Improve your online user experience.

Google threw publishers a bone last year, when they relaxed the “one click free” rule, thus allowing publishers with paywalls to get discovered in search results.

But be ready for Google to crack down on media companies with poor user experience this February.  Starting on February 15, 2018, Google Chrome browser will start blocking ads that come from “intrusive advertising experiences.”  This will apply across devices – desktop and mobile.  Chrome has about a 60% market share – so prepare for a 60% drop in traffic if you are not compliant!

By February 15, commit to improving your online user experience.

3. Diversify, diversify, diversify.

If you are heavily dependent on one type of revenue – print ads or subscriptions, for example – it’s time to think like a portfolio manager and find multiple ways to generate income. And I don’t need to remind you what is happening with trends in print advertising and digital display advertising.  It’s a sinking ship you don’t want to be on!

If you want to weather the changing trends, at least 33% of your revenue should come from “digital” sources, and no more than 50% of your digital revenue should come from display ads.

What can you resolve to do in 2018?  Launch at least one new revenue stream.  Here are some ideas:

  • Reader revenue – put your best content behind a paywall and ask readers to subscribe.  Consumers are tired of click bait and free news, so they will pay for quality content in their niche.
  • Native advertising – no matter if you call it native, sponsored, or something else, find a way to create journalistic-quality content that is related to – but does not shamelessly promote – one of your sponsors. My favorite example is when the New York Times did a piece on life in a women’s prison, and it was sponsored by Netflix in advance of the season premiere of Orange is the New Black (set in a women’s prison).
  • Lead gen – provide more opportunities for your advertiser to collect a reader’s contact information.  This is a more effective tool (for them) than banner ads.  Do co-branded whitepapers, product reviews, video series, emails, etc. to help key sponsors engage with your audience, and get specific leads in the process.

Please promise me you won’t fall into the 80% of people who break their resolutions by February.  Get excited about the potential for your company. Commit to these three actions and reap the rewards before you ring in 2019 (it’ll be here before you know it!)


Rob Ristagno is the CEO and Founder of The Sterling Woods Group, a firm that builds new revenue streams for media companies and publishers. He is an expert in direct monetization of content. Prior to creating The Sterling Woods Group, Rob served as a senior executive for several niche media and e-commerce companies. He most recently was the Chief Operating Officer of America’s Test Kitchen, considered to be the gold standard in the niche media world for building diversified – and often digital – revenue streams.


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