How To Start A Media Company & Make Money

The media landscape has been unraveling for years now. Legacy publishers have been losing their footing in print and online. Google and Facebook are currently dominating the ad market, which used to be a cornerstone of revenue for traditional media.

As a result, we’ve seen major publications like The Independent (UK) shrink, and several local newspapers in the US have closed forever.

Some have called this the death of media companies, with power now concentrating in the hands of few publications which can weather the storm.

Others see it as the birth of a new form of media entities and have used the rise of niche media companies like InfoWars and BuzzFeed as conclusive proof.

Wherever you stand on the debate, one thing remains true. You need a solid content strategy and revenue model to start a media company and make money.

This article will go over both sides of the equation, the available options, and tools to help you make it happen.

But first, let’s discuss what a media company is in the present day and what it does.

Also Read: Most Successful Small Business Ideas List

What is a Media Company?

Image Source: Unsplash

In the golden days of media companies, a media company is a business with professional editors and writers that create and publish content periodically. The content is distributed in newspapers, newsletters, and magazines.

It was that straightforward. Content, of course, could be anything from political news and entertainment to industry-specific topics.

Things have since evolved, and the creation of film, music, graphics, art and all forms of media content are part of what defines a media company today.

Also, most publishers now put their creations online on websites, using text, photos, audio, and video content to engage visitors.

The evolution has not stopped there. Today, practically every business, especially those in the e-Commerce space, is a media company. The competition for customers has created the need for media content that attracts customer attention and into their sales funnel.

The difference is that while they create media content to attract visitors and offer products and services to make a sale, the main product of an online media company is content.

Regardless of whatever type of media company it is, content is at the heart of the operation. Here are content-related steps you need to take when starting a media company.

Check Out: Profitable Business Ideas For Ladies Sitting At Home

How to Start a Media Company: Creating Content

Content is the specific value you intend to produce and deliver to your potential audience. The two most important words in that sentence are value and audience when starting a media company.

Use these steps to determine and create the right content when starting your own media company.

Target Audience

Image Source: Unsplash

The first place to start is to identify your target audience. Whatever form of content you wish to produce, you first need to determine the kind and size of the audience.

To do this, you need to ask questions like:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they like and do not like?
  • What are they passionate about?
  • What do they find controversial?
  • Where do they congregate?

Answering these questions gives you ideas on building your content and distribution system. It will also give you the potential size of the business and how you are likely to make money.

Say you want to start a website covering TV shows. Your target audience means defining your ideal readers’ age, gender, region, etc.

You can further segment this group into different types of TV shows: reality TV, superhero, action, drama, comedy shows, etc.

The further you drill down into the audience segment, the better you can identify the proper content format for the audience. You will be able to answer questions like: do they prefer video, audio, or text-based content?

For instance, if you wish to target a primarily male audience, superhero TV show content is a better fit. On the other hand, you are more likely to attract a female audience between the ages of 18-34 by producing reality-TV content.

There is nothing wrong with targeting either group. It all comes down to the content you are best equipped to produce, which brings us to the second step – benefits, and value.

Benefits and Value

Image Source: Unsplash

The ongoing revolution of the media space has opened the doors to thousands of upstarts looking to take advantage.

To stand out, you have to offer a specific and unique value to your potential audience.

  • What new info will users find on your website? How do you stand out from other websites?
  • Why should your audience add your publication to their media diet?

Once you’ve answered the questions satisfactorily, work out how to convey your unique selling point to your audience. Make sure your value is clear and specific.

Doing this will not only signal to potential viewers and readers that you are worth checking out, but it will also help solidify your company’s image and message.

Having a distinct, recognizable brand is crucial in the long term if you plan on making money.

Platform and Distribution Model

Image Source: Unsplash

A platform is the underlying technology service that enables you to publish content and allows your audience to engage with it. For text-based media entities, this includes websites, magazines, and newspapers.

A distribution model is how you provide your content to your audience members for consumption. This could be via social media channels, email newsletters, and old-school press releases.

Still confused? I understand. Even expert marketers still confuse the two, especially when you consider some platforms are also a means of distribution.

Here is an example to further clarify things. WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix are platforms for websites. You can distribute website content on Twitter, Instagram, or Gmail.

There are multiple ways to distribute content and several platforms to build a media company. Nonetheless, the best options come down to your audience’s preferred destination.

Suppose you have a reality TV media company and know that most of your readers hang out on Twitter. In that case, it doesn’t make sense to share your website content on Pinterest.

Or, if they prefer watching video recaps and reactions to episodes, you are better off building your media company on a video platform like YouTube or Vimeo.

Also, operating costs determine the right platform and distribution strategy when starting a media company.

The cost of producing a quality video is higher than a website article, making WordPress the better option than YouTube if you have limited capital.

What About Print?

Image Source: Unsplash

Digital media isn’t the only way to platform and distribute content. Even though several major newspapers have discontinued printing, there are still audience segments where print remains the preferred mode of media consumption.

Now, as a startup media company, I would not recommend jumping into print until you are well established.

However, if you target an audience that wants to take a break from screens to consume your type of content, then the print format is the way to go.

But keep in mind the operating cost will be high, and it will be necessary to build a solid revenue base quickly.

Content Optimization

Image Source: Unsplash

After figuring out your targeted audience, the right content format/style, platform, and distribution model, the final content-related step is content optimization.

This covers everything from developing a system that produces consistent, high-quality content, recalibrating with the audience’s reception, and showcasing your company to attract visitors.

In essence, this is the content side of the media company’s business operation. It is content creation, analytics, and marketing.

Content creation involves research, content planning, writing, editing, and publishing. Having a solid handle on your content creation process gives your audience a good idea of what to expect and when.

Analytics involves tracking engagement metrics like page views, social shares, comments, backlinks, etc. These metrics allow you to determine how valuable your audience thinks your content is.

Image Source: Unsplash

With analytics, you can see what content piece your audience found entertaining, educative, relevant, emotional to create more like it.

Finally, marketing. It’s not enough to create great content, you also have to tell people it exists. One way to do that is through search engine optimization. This will enable search engine users to find your website when they search for your type of content.

Other ways to market your content include paid ads, guest blogging, social media marketing, email marketing, and media partnerships.

Suppose you have the time and are prepared to learn the necessary skills for content optimization. In that case, you can handle all of this yourself. It will significantly lower your operating costs as a startup media company.

But if you can’t, you will have to hire extra hands, which leads us to the second part of the media company equation: making money.

How to Start a Media Company: Generating Revenue

Whatever your goals are for starting a new media company, whether to make a profit or create a community around a topic, revenue is key to survival.

Advertisements and subscriptions are the most common sources of revenue for media companies, but they are not the only ones.

Here is how to make money using either model and the other ways to make money with a media company.

Advertising

Image Source: Pxhere

Since the beginning, ads have been a core source of revenue for media companies. This is still true today.

Media publishers on any platform can show online ads to viewers and readers and earn from views and clicks.

However, unlike the days when businesses and services paid ad expenses directly to media companies, there are now two middlemen, Google and Facebook, the former being the undisputed leader.

Google shares between 50 and 70% of the ad revenue with publishers. The exact revenue split depends on the niche and ad type.

For example, insurance niches cost $17 per click on average, while beauty and skincare costs $1.86

Still, with enough traffic, advertising can become a significant source of profit, whatever your niche.

It doesn’t take a lot to set up either, so you can start earning as soon as your publishing channel qualifies.

However, if you find the revenue splitting is too steep, another way to earn via advertising is native advertising.

Native Advertising

Image Source: Seerinteractive

Traditional media companies have been hemorrhaging ad revenue to Google and Facebook because of the tech companies’ ability to target every ad to the most relevant users.

This extra value raised the criteria for ad sales beyond simply having a lot of eyeballs to the ability to tailor an ad to a specific audience. To attract advertising income without the internet’s middlemen, you have to find a way to provide extra value to brands and businesses.

A common way to do this is via native advertising. It is a form of advertising that matches the look, feel, and function of the media format.

This could be an ad design on the website’s ad space that blends with the overall aesthetic. It can also be an article and other forms of content created specifically for a brand and promoted to the audience.

Media companies like Buzzfeed use this type of native advertising through articles, listicles, and videos.

Native advertising is also common among YouTube-based media outlets where advertisers are referred to as sponsors. You can get paid to promote niche products that your audience would love.

A distinct advantage of this is creating evergreen content that promotes a brand for years, a form of value Google and Facebook cannot yet deliver.

Also Read: How Much Does YouTube Pay Per View?

You don’t have to source for brands to advertise on your websites either. There are companies like Outbrain and Revcontent that match publishers to advertisers.

All you have to do is sign up once you’ve determined you meet the network’s criteria.

Subscription Model

Image Source: Unsplash

Subscription is one of the surefire ways to make money via a media company. But unlike advertising, it takes time to build because it requires building a reputation over time unless you have a personal reputation to leverage.

Take the New York Times and the Washington Post. The reputation of being quality, well-researched, objective news outlets has created a sense of loyalty that readers are willing to reward with their money.

As a result, both companies have grown their subscriber base and become even more profitable, even as their advertising revenue declined.

But not every media company has the luxury of a century to build and solidify a reputation.

Still, the subscription model can work if you build a bond with your audience and convince them to access additional content for a fee.

You can use paywall tools like MediaPass and LaterPay to gate website content or Ko-fi or Patreon, where you can share exclusive content with subscribers directly.

However, more than the ad model, the long-term survival of the subscription model depends on your ability to create clear value for subscribers consistently.

Furthermore, when setting up your subscription business, the socio-economic status of your target audience will determine your pricing structure.

For example, readers of The Financial Times are mostly in a higher socio-economic band, which is why it charges $69 monthly.

Membership Model

Image Source: Unsplash

Another way to make money via a media company is to offer paid membership to readers and viewers.

The membership model is not super different from the subscription model, except it comes with additional perks and access.

Publishers who use the model commonly give members a say on editorial policy. Members can share their thoughts with the editorial team and shape published content for a couple of dollars a month.

Additional perks can also include gifts like tees, tote bags, mugs, and beanies. Members can even access extra content like a free course or e-book or a forum with fellow members.

An advantage of this model is, like subscriptions, the pricing structure can have multiple tiers with different perks.

This allows media company owners to earn the maximum revenue possible without excluding lower-earning fans and visitors.

Additional advantages include being free of third-party ad platforms, revenue sharing schemes, and the ability to forecast revenue and grow your media company.

You also get to build long-term relationships with your readers or viewers, which results in recurring revenue from loyal audiences.

However, to enjoy these advantages, you need to build a passionate audience for your niche.

Merchandising

Image Source: Unsplash

Selling merchandise is a proven way to turn your content business into a profit machine. Like every non-ad-driven revenue model, it relies on a loyal audience base while returning value to purchasing users.

Merchandising is a popular monetization option, especially among YouTube content creators and media outlets.

It consists of selling branded clothing items or personal effects to your audience. This includes everyday clothing and accessories like hoodies, beanies, tees, bracelets, joggers, and mugs.

The branding is usually the media company’s logo, but it can also be a ‘secret’ saying that fellow fans will recognize.

Also, depending on your niche, the product line could include specific items. A tech-focused media outlet like Linus Tech Tips sells CPU-themed pillows and cable ties. An education-focused media brand might sell branded notebooks and pens.

There are several advantages to merchandising as a monetization strategy. Most uniquely, it can boost your brand exposure and attract new visitors and fans.

That said, you need a product design, logistics, and customer support team, all of which increase operating costs.

Affiliate Marketing

Image Source: Pxhere

Affiliate marketing is a revenue model where a media company earns money by promoting a product or service made by another retailer or advertiser.

This revenue model is similar to native advertising. You are usually promoting products in or related to your niche.

Say your publishing outlet is in the SEO niche. You can be an affiliate marketer for SEO businesses like SEMrush and Surfer SEO.

Unlike native advertising, where you get paid per click or views, affiliate marketing income primarily comes via sales.

If a reader clicks a link from you and buys the product, a commission is passed on to you. However, some programs reward marketers for leads, clicks, free-trial users, and downloads for an app.

It is also free to join an affiliate program, so all you need to do is set up your media company and build traffic.

While it is easy to become an affiliate marketer, it comes with an added risk of reputational damage.

Suppose enough readers are dissatisfied with a recommended product. In that case, this could lead to a breakdown in trust and, ultimately, audience depletion.

These six options are ways to make money from starting a media company. You can even combine some of them, allowing you to maximize revenue sources for one entity.

To do so, you need to learn the necessary tools for the venture.

Tools for Setting up a Media Company and Make Money

Image Source: Unsplash

Here are a few tools for successfully starting and monetizing a media company.

Content Management System (CMS): WordPress, Wix, HubSpot – to build a media website with free templates or customized website structure.

Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter – for content distribution via social sharing to generate traffic.

Video: YouTube, Vimeo – YouTube for hosting and monetizing video content via ads and sponsored content. Vimeo for live streaming and publishing adless videos. Useful for exclusive subscription and membership content.

Content Optimization: Google Analytics, SEMrush – to ensure you consistently create high-quality content by tracking what your audience wants and how they react to your content.

Email: MailChimp, Brevo, HubSpot – email marketing systems to distribute content and interact directly with subscribers.

Paywall: MediaPass, LaterPay, Pelcro – to lock website content and make money via paid subscribers.

Advertisement: Google AdSense, RevContent, Adsterra – to earn money for displaying online or native ads on your website.

Conclusion

More than ever, it is easy to create an independent and reputable media company that makes money.

It starts by defining your target audience and niche, creating valuable unique content, promoting it on other platforms, and monetizing your ad spaces.

Owning a media company can be profitable, but you have to be operationally flexible, consistent, creative, and build lasting trust with your audience.

When you can manage this, you have a successful business on your hands and the sky is your limit.

About Author

Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.