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How to Make Money with WordPress Digital Publishing – Part Two

Part Two: Publishers and High-Traffic Media

In the first part of this series, we covered monetization opportunities suitable for smaller digital publishers – sponsored content, membership fees, donations. Now we’ll take a look at the options suitable for large-scale publishers and media outlets such as monetizing eCommerce, podcasts, affiliate business and programmatic advertising.

Digital Publishing 101: What Is Digital Publishing?

Programmatic and Paid Advertising

When you’re certain that your content is on point, you can start thinking about offering advertising space on your website. Besides relevant content, your audience will also appreciate ads that are in line with their beliefs and interests. The more relevant the ads are, the more engaged the users will be with them.

Ads play a massive role in global digital publishing revenue. Out of 135 publishers surveyed by Digiday, more than half of them stated that direct-sold ads are a large source of income for them. As reported by eMarketer, by 2022, the global digital ad expenditure will surpass $427 billion.

Programmatic Advertising

If you want to maximize your revenue as a publisher, selling advertising space is a must. Every major publisher makes money from selling adequate programmatic ad space.

For example, TechCrunch shows technology-related advertisements to the readers.

TechCrunch ads

When you’re selling your ad space programmatically, you’re offering it through header bidding processes. However, before you initiate header bidding on your site, you’ll need to pay attention to the following:

  • Traffic: If you want advertisers to bid on your ad space, you must attain substantial readership and site page views.
  • Content: Unique and valuable content will keep visitors coming back and increase ad impressions.
  • Functionality: Your website must be easy to use, with clear navigation to help users browse and access the content.
  • Ad Size: To stay competitive in the digital publishing landscape, you need to know how to leverage ad sizes on your website.
  • Cost-per-Click: The sum that advertisers spend when a reader clicks on one of their advertisements.

How Header Bidding Works

You’re probably wondering, how does header bidding work? As an automated auction system, header bidding provides you with the option to feature your ad inventory on multiple Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) and allow advertisers to bid for them simultaneously.

Header bidding is performed in the JavaScript code that is embedded into your site’s header. This code links your website to a number of sources that want to purchase the ad inventory. The process is fast, and every time your page is loaded, demand sources will bid for each impression.

A header bidding wrapper (JavaScript tag), or a container in the JavaScript code within your site’s header can also help you set a timeframe for each bid, in addition to choosing and removing demand partners. Without the header wrapper, if you wanted to make changes to the header tag, the old header must be replaced manually with a new one each time.

Also, keep in mind that the header wrapper configuration is much more sophisticated than a basic advertising tag. That’s why you need to pick the right technical partner to optimize it for you.

Header bidding helps you see exactly how much advertisers are prepared to invest to be featured on your pages. That helps you have better control over the value of your ad inventory, and as a result, gradually increases your revenue.

3 Header Bidding Gains for WordPress Digital Publishers

Ads Placements and Layouts

When placing advertisements on your pages, keep in mind that readers can get tired from seeing too many on your site. Over 50% of consumers prefer to see a video advertisement in their feed over videos in their email inbox. That means that users want to see smart ads, against bad ads that can only bring down your conversion rate.

Only quality and relevant ads delivered in the right format and at the right time are valuable to readers.

For example, publishers such as The New York Times are using FlexFrame, their banner advertisement that adjusts to the reader’s screen.

Bloomberg is using its own ad format as well, called Ad.apt, which asks advertisers to submit a title, branded images, or video. It also quickly renders ads based on readers’ interests, behavior, and browsing history.

The above and similar ad formats will keep audiences engaged and on your website.

WordPress Publishing Explained: Key Revenue Growth Techniques

Ads Sizes

The advertisements on your WordPress website can come in different shapes and sizes, however, the following dimensions are the most acceptable ones:

  • Medium Rectangle (300 x 250)
  • Leaderboard (728 x 90)
  • Wide Skyscraper (160 x 600)
  • Mobile Banner (320 x 50)

You will have to pay attention to how the ad spaces are positioned on your site. The ad units must be noticeable, but not too much, in order for the reader’s UX to remain excellent.

For more guidance on good ad placement and sizes on your WordPress site, visit our guide here:

4 Key Elements of an Ad-Friendly WordPress Layout

Problems With Publisher Technologies

In one of his Pubexec articles – 5 Ways Publisher Technology Lags & Hurts Monetization, our CEO Mario Peshev points out the following mistakes that digital publishers make when they do not embrace new technologies properly:

  • Technological Stagnation: When you’re delaying feature improvements, you’re already behind your competitors in the digital publishing industry. Big players are continually investing in development and new features.
  • Outdated Content Formats: The best publishers continuously experiment with their content formats and approaches. If you want to serve hundreds of million unique page visitors per month, you need to diversify your content to videos, quizzes, checklists, infographics and eliminate old content that does not work anymore.
  • Inefficient Ad Integrations: When you rely on ads, you need to ensure that you’re using the right ad networks, benefiting from a proper header bidding process, and monetizing different ad placement properly.

You need to know how to find the right balance between innovative ads and creating a pleasant user experience.

  • Poor Analytics Usages: If you want to maximize the monetization potential of your digital publishing platform, you need to know how to analyze data so you can make the right decisions for your site.

The best publishers in the industry know how to analyze campaigns by tracking them daily and investing in cutting-edge technology that helps them determine the right type of advertising and content budgets.

  • Not Innovating: You must not cut things short when it comes to technology. This will result in an outdated experience and lower conversion rates.

If you don’t invest in the right hosting stack and cloud-driven infrastructure, you won’t be able to leverage all that WordPress offers as a digital publishing platform.


eCommerce Opportunities

With the growth of the US eCommerce industry to a $601.75 billion marketplace, it’s just too big of an opportunity to ignore for digital publishers. It’s all about moving readers from content consumption to transaction.

If you’re still not convinced about the power of eCommerce combined with relevant content publishing, think again.

Last year alone, Hearst, a leading global media publisher, launched several eCommerce products, including an apparel store, a cookbook, and health books, as well as online workout classes.


The New York Times also entered eCommerce with its online store:


One of the most successful media publishers in the UK, Dennis Publishing, sells more than 300 cars through their website.


Their other sites Auto Express and Carbuyer, bring in almost 15% of their customers.

Having a successful eCommerce allows you to deliver valuable content while connecting consumers with quality brands.

eCommerce possibilities will only continue to grow, harnessed by the technology and online shopping potential.

For your WordPress digital publishing website, the best and most compatible eCommerce solution is WooCommerce. It’s open-source and that means your WordPress development partners can help you customize each aspect of your eCommerce opportunities.

How to Use WooCommerce to Scale Your eCommerce Business

Affiliate Marketing for Publishers

Affiliate marketing is another great way to make money as a digital publisher. It works by recommending an external product/service on your website. This monetization method is excellent for highly-focused niches that want to form a partnership with other brands.

While advertisements generate profit from clicks and impressions, affiliate marketing will only generate income when a user clicks on the link and purchases the product.

When the product/service is acquired via the affiliate link that’s published on your website, you’ll receive a commission from that purchase.

A typical affiliate collaboration is Amazon’s affiliate program, where you can send users to related products and services on Amazon. When it comes to affiliate marketing, you must ensure that what you promote is relevant and attractive to your target audience. Keep in mind the following:

  1. Stay Focused on Producing Great Content – Your content is the main thing that keeps attracting and retaining audiences. Don’t sacrifice content quantity or quality for affiliate linking and revenue. People won’t stand too much promotion from anyone.
  2. Stay Relevant – Offer your readers a product/service that they would benefit from. Focus on relevancy, and inspire readers to click on the affiliate link.

For example, tech magazines such as DigitalTrends are regularly writing content on the reasons why you should purchase a given product, along with the included affiliate link.


When assessing the success of the affiliate marketing campaigns on your digital publishing site, here’s what to pay attention to:

  • Page Visitors: How many users visit the pages that include affiliate links? You need a constant stream of well-targeted traffic to pull this monetization method off.
  • Click Rates: How many page visitors click on the affiliate link? Is the link positioning suitable and noticeable? Make sure that everything is optimized for better click rates.
  • Conversion Rates: What part of the clicks made have led to a product purchase? This is what earns you money as a publisher. To achieve better conversion rates for both you and your affiliate partner, make sure that you provide enough quality product context.

To help you out with the right tools for implementing affiliate programs on your publishing site, visit WP beginner’s selection of plugins here.

Premium Podcasts

More than one-third of US citizens listen to podcasts every month. Listeners now spend over six hours each week on podcasts, consuming approximately seven episodes per week.

According to IAB, advertisers invested more than $700 million in podcasts in 2019. In 2021, the podcast market will rise to more than $1 billion, with expected ad revenue of $863 million this year alone.

Top 30 WordPress Podcasts You Should Listen to in 2020

Podcasts are an excellent opportunity for publishers that want to profit from the rising audio content industry.

Major publishers such as The New York Times are already ahead of the game with their TheDaily, The Argument, Still Processing, and the Book Review podcasts.

Slate magazine has been making podcasts for over a decade, making 50% of their revenue from audio shows on demand.

Vox, which also incorporates SB Nation, SB Nation, The Verge, along with Vox itself, offers a variety of distinctive podcasts. Some of their most notable shows are The Ezra Klein Show, Recode Decode, and Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway.


Their vast number of podcasts bring in huge amounts of advertising revenue that in turn help build an extensive network of brands that they can promote on their shows.

Taking into account the potential for advertising and premium podcasting, every publisher should probably have a podcast strategy for 2020 and beyond.

Here are just some methods to help you started with podcast monetization:

Get Sponsors

You often hear “This episode is sponsored by [company name]” on almost every podcast. That means a sponsor pays for a brand name to be mentioned before, in the middle, or at the end of each podcast episode.

The following are just some of the places that can help you start with podcast sponsorship: Ad Results Media, AdvertiseCast, Midroll.

Offer Premium Episodes

When you offer insightful episodes to a well-chosen target audience, the chances that they’ll pay for even better content are much better.

For example, for $10 per month, The Daily Wire gives access to live video podcasts and their entire show library and allows a number of features such as a members-only mobile app and discussions with hosts.


Monetize Indirectly

You can use indirect monetization methods such as:

  • Selling Physical Products: When people enjoy your episodes, they become fans who purchase memorabilia. It can be anything from t-shirts to stickers or mugs.


  • Offering Courses: You can help listeners learn skills by offering courses related to the topics of your episodes.
  • Provide Content Upgrades: Compile a downloadable content upgrade that is related to each, or several, of your episodes.
  • Offer Consulting Services: When your podcast team is considered an authority in the field, providing consultations and training is always a way to increase your revenue.

Wrapping Up

If you look closely at the major digital publishers, they never rely on a single source of income. They combine subscriptions, ad spaces, eCommerce, paywalls and sponsors to come up with a tangible and unique revenue stream.

Have you any questions regarding digital publishing monetization and scaling for growth? Let us know in the comments or get in touch!