Are you ready to grow your digital revenues?

Are you ready to grow your digital revenues? We all know we need to launch new digital products to diversify our online income sources in these challenging times.

The problem is the deck is stacked against us!

In fact, we’ve found five forces that hold publishers back from growing the digital piece of their business.

Which of these five forces are holding you back?

1. Populous Pressure. This means trying to be everything to everyone. Firms affected by this force tend to be all over the place in terms of who they’re trying to deliver value to. If you ask them who their best customers are, they say something like “I don’t know” or “everyone in our industry.”

2. Click Coercion. This force drives publishers to focus too much on traffic and engagement metrics. This is an appendage from the ad-supported media model. Even publishers who aren’t ad-supported can fall into this trap. Companies who are affected by this force care more about eyeballs and clicks, and not enough about moving the best prospects through a clean and simple purchase funnel. You can diagnose this by looking at a firm’s website and counting how many different links are competing for a visitor’s attention. If there are dozens of links, a pop up, an auto-play video, an image carousel, and six different calls to action in the right rail, then the company is affected by the Click Coercion force.

3. Competitive Compression. This is defining the competitive set too narrowly. What business are you REALLY in? When a company says magazine, or newsletter, or even publishing they’re affected by this force. Companies who aren’t affected by this force really understand what problems they solve for their audience and would answer the question “what business are you really in” with solution oriented responses, like we educate our readers, we build capabilities for our readers, we help our customers find new leads, we help our readers make fewer mistakes, etc.

4. Perfection Oppression. How long does it take management to make a change? In the print world, we had to be more like perfectionists because once something is out there, it’s out there. The digital world gives us a license to fail – decisions can be made rapidly and prototypes can be quickly tested. We can let go of our perfectionist tendencies.

5. Initiative Inertia. This is the fallacy of thinking more can be done with existing resources, while not cutting any existing initiatives. It’s expecting different results from doing the same thing. If management is frustrated because they feel like they can’t get anything new out there because they’re stuck operating in the traditional business, then this force is affecting them.

Shoot! What can we do? The good news is for these five negative forces, there are 5 positive counterbalancing forces.

To get over Populous Pressure, focus on your “whales.” Your whales are the segment of your audience that are the most engaged and enthusiastic about what you do. Talk to them and figure out what digital products – eBooks, memberships, content archives – would solve a real problem for them.

To counteract Click Coercion, make sure your site passes the “5 second rule,” meaning within 5 seconds, I should be able to tell who you are targeting, what problem you’re solving for them, how, and why you’re better than the alternative (especially free alternatives). Limit calls to action to 1 or 2 per page. Play the long game.

Push back against Competitive Compression by thinking outside the box about what other products and services you can launch to sell to you best subscribers – you’re not just a magazine creator, you’re a solutions provider. Consider events, exclusive counsels, training, consulting, and research. Whatever complements your content with the goal of solving a real problem.

Fight Perfection Oppression by constantly measuring results and running experiments. Track the 5-9 most important metrics religiously and when you spot a problem, run A/B tests to find the best solution. Act fast and course correct.

Finally, Initiative Inertia can be broken by using dedicated resources to focus on new ideas. This may mean hiring new employees – or if you don’t want to add overhead – finding external partners that can launch new initiatives while the core team keeps the traditional business running. Once the new idea is proven successful, it can be brought in-house.

I encourage you to discuss these five negative forces with your management so you can suggest ways to counterbalance what’s holding you back in your quest to grow digital sales.



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.


Niche Media has the best events, education, and training in media! Our super niched-out events & content give target-audience publishers in the B2C, hobbyist, B2B, city & regional, and association markets the tools they need to build revenue, audience, and more.