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Advertising is not the only game online

If you were to believe the loose talk about advertiser-supported online business models you'd think it was the only game in town. The loose talk oversimplifies the undeniable fact that advertising is both increasingly creative and dominant online, but it's a long way from being the only game online. To quote Albert Einstein: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler."

At the July 2007 Future of Media conference in Sydney someone on stage (who should have known better) said "only porn or financial data works on a user-paid basis". Err, wrong.

Mondaq's online revenues - content-generator pays

Consider the user-pays model used by Mondaq.

  • shoemoneyMondaq is a website with legal articles contributed by lawyers worldwide.
  • Mondaq has a user pays or rather content-generator pays model. Readers read free-of-charge.
  • Mondaq charges law firms to have more than three articles on the Mondaq site.
  • Participating firms pay to promote their services with articles and reports. If a firm already has a website Mondaq becomes a re-publishing opportunity increasing exposure. Mondaq provides content-generators with traffic reports which identify readers. While reading is free of charge readers have to register and Mondaq tracks them by name, affiliation and browsing activity.
  • Mondaq categories articles by country and by legal subject area.
  • Readers include private lawyers, in-house counsel and others into technical legal writing.
  • Mondaq aggregates the law firm articles and broadcasts them via RSS and email enewsletters.

A Mondaq enewsletter awaits me in my in-box on Friday morning. As a reader I pay nothing to read the articles. Mondaq's financial model is similar to that of Adobe Acrobat. File creators must have the Acrobat program but file readers download the Acrobat Reader application free-of-charge.

Thus the financial model underwriting Mondaq is - content-generator pays.

The same model is used by comparable online legal publishers such as Internet Business Law Services and International Law Office. These online little guys compete in English-language legal publishing markets dominated by the two big players. They are LexisNexis and Westlaw, and their respective parent companies are Reed Publishing and Thomson. For about the last five years both have experienced double-digit revenue growth.

None have straight advertising on their sites.

Three online revenue options

Since about 1999 there have been broadly three online business models: (1) subscription, (2) fee for service and (3) advertiser-supported. Recognising this, helps monetarise digital media.

What would work for you?

Online advertising really did take off in about 2005. But it's not the only game online. Over-simplification helps nobody, especially online little guys needing creative business development solutions.

As old media accelerates its move online it'll be grabbing advertising cheques from under the noses of average online little guys. Call (02) 9269 0229 for a conversation on the options that might work in your situation.


Photo: Photo is of Shoemoney proprietor with a 27 September 2005 cheque to him from Google for AdSense US$132,994.97.


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