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WordPress Publishing Explained: Key Revenue Growth Techniques

WordPress Publishing Explained Key Revenue Growth Techniques

Hello WordPress nation, Bojidar here! For those of you that don’t know me, I am the Junior Tech Lead here at DevriX, arguably the best WordPress squad in the world. Together, we are building awesome things with WordPress, especially when it comes to the Digital Publishing industry, scaling websites for up to billion monthly visits.

As a huge enthusiast of all things Publishing, WordPress, and revenue growth optimization, a WordCamp talk was bound to happen. WordCamp Sofia was around the corner, and the team urged me to apply, knowing that I have a great topic at hand.

Consequently, I applied, and back in November 2019, I was thrilled to be invited to give my first WordCamp talk, “WordPress Publishing Explained: Key Revenue Techniques” at WCSOF2019.

Even though I was nervous, it’s safe to say that my first talk was a success! The organization was excellent, the audience was amazing, and I had the best team in the world, cheering me on.

WordPress Publishing is a pretty hot topic in the business world. Hence, the keen interest from WCSOF2019 attendees and their interest in learning more about the best revenue growth techniques got me thinking.

Why don’t I expand on the talk and write an article on our company blog where I could share my talk through analysis and examples?

This article will expand on each topic from my talk. I will focus mostly on digital advertising and cover the core metrics for determining profitability and engagement in publishing. Also, you will learn a bit more about website traffic, traffic sources, and what monetization for digital publishers means.

Let’s begin!

The Transformation of Digital Publishing Revenue Models

The Internet has enabled efficient content delivery methods and has completely reshaped the traditional revenue models. Big players in the industry have all embraced the revolution and transformed their business models in the process.

Publishers started understanding that the traditional monetization methods were struggling because of the various economic and technological aspects that affected the industry. And that, to monetize your digital content, you must adopt new revenue strategies and continuously improve.

Today, audiences are far more digital-savvy than any other generation before. They know what a sophisticated web experience is and how quality content should feel.

As a publisher, you must recognize opportunities and take advantage of innovative revenue models. By analyzing the current trends in digital publishing growth, the models that you should take into consideration are:

the 5 innovative revenue models

  • Paywalls: Set up a paywall where only paying customers can access content. Of course, you should offer part of your content free, such as 3-5 articles before you ask readers payment to fully access the site.
  • Tiered Access: You can also provide a sample of your content and then offer the opportunity to access high-tier content where you can provide greater content volume and additional perks. With tiered pricing, you can offer several content packages with various perks and media combinations at different prices.
  • Subscriptions: With a subscription model, you’re selling more of your content for a recurring subscription payment. This can be an excellent stream of steady income for your digital publishing business because it can include a long-term monthly or weekly micropayments from your readers.
  • Premium Content: Providing exclusive content is always a safe bet when it comes to monetization. Such content would be available only to readers that pay for it as an addition to your regular subscription.
  • Omni-channel Approach: People often use a wide range of devices to access your content. That is why you must provide a seamless experience across each device as the technology continues to improve.

The technology that you’re going to use for your WordPress website must be flexible and scalable. That’s why if you want to implement innovative content monetization models, you must invest in a high-end architecture.

Publishers with a proper technology stack will succeed in the marketplace, both with readership retention and monetization strategies.

Recommended: Headless WordPress CMS 101

The Most Popular Content Monetization Methods

Finding the best content monetization methods for your WordPress publishing website can be a real challenge if you still don’t know what will be the most profitable one.

The following are the five most popular content monetization models used in the publishing industry:

  • Membership Subscription
  • Content Selling
  • Consulting and Services
  • Digital Advertising
  • Affiliate Marketing

Membership Platforms

laptop phone on a table

According to a survey by Reuters Institute, 44% of publishing executives rank digital subscriptions as their most important revenue stream. That’s a big jump from just a few years ago when publishers were still relying on advertising and print subscriptions to fund their news organizations.

A membership platform is a way to monetize any supplementary content that is not available to the general audience. It is a way to have people pay recurring fees to view this type of content.

It is a less popular monetization method than digital advertising. That is because digital advertising is not particularly needed for a specific niche. You can integrate any sort of content, and the advertisements are always there to make money for you. With digital advertising, users don’t necessarily interact with ads, and they don’t have to pay you to open new content levels.

In contrast to digital advertising, with membership platforms, people pay a recurring fee to open premium content. That is why advertising is preferred over membership. However, membership and advertising can also be paired to work together.

Focusing on a membership revenue model can be a viable way for publishers to redefine their business models and establish recurring and predictable revenue.

It is crucial to provide compelling content that is relevant to your brand’s mission and values, as well as with the audience that you want to foster. Memberships encourage readers to support the cause that your brand believes in. It’s a value exchange between you as a content distributor and the readers as the members of your cause.

If you want to successfully implement the membership revenue approach, first, you need to thoroughly understand what type of content subscribers want, and how much they’re prepared to pay for it.

Choosing the membership revenue model requires you to concentrate on your subscribers, and to have a completely different strategy for them as opposed to your regular readers that consume your free content.

One of the best-known examples for a membership program is The Guardian. Most recently, the magazine reported an increase in profits, as their revenue rose to £224.5m in the last financial year alone, thanks to their digital revenue and membership contributions. To attain one million loyal subscribers, The Guardian has nurtured long-term relationships with their most devoted readers.

the guardian become a subscriber

The New York Times also provides its members with unlimited access to their premium content. Without a membership, users can access only a limited amount of free articles per month.

new york times limited articles

A media subscription revenue model can also work exceptionally well for niche and region-specific content, where you can provide unique value to targeted readers. For example, the politics magazine The Texas Tribute publicizes The Blast, a high-end political newsletter for people interested in insider info on the latest in politics and elected officials.

the blast political newsletter

Content Selling

As a publisher, you can also monetize your audience by selling various digital products such as ebooks, creative assets, applications, or on-demand services, videos, and podcasts.

Today’s consumers are willing to pay for high-quality content more than ever. The distribution of digital downloads is effortless, and with the right technology at your disposal, you can create high-end and monetizable content.

You don’t need to use printed materials like in the good old days, nor do you have to hire an entire printing factory just to get your magazine out. If your editorial team can create a simple article, then you can create a digital product that you can sell.


Ebooks are one of the most popular types of digital content for both publishers and readers alike. Their distribution is pretty straightforward, and consumers can read them on their Kindle readers, tablets, smartphones, and computers.

In the U.S eBook publishing revenue has a projected growth of 5.33 billion before 2022. As a publisher, you can take advantage of that by digitizing your print titles. You can educate, consult, and upgrade your current content and sell it on your site.

forbes books

Image Source: Forbes Books

If you’re considering the development and sales of eBooks for your publishing business, I would suggest you focus on the following:

  • Price: In general, eBooks are sold for a price lower than paper books. A price higher than $20 is harder to justify, given the perceived value of traditional physical books. Of course, there are exceptions, but in general, don’t expect your readers to want to spend more.
  • Revenue: Selling an eBook is not the same as a recurring subscription. The reader can only purchase the book once. That means that if you want to scale your eBook publishing company, you must sell to more readers. If you don’t create new titles regularly, you won’t increase your revenue.
  • Distribution: You can distribute your eBooks in various ways. Your website, separate website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks are all convenient options.
  • Previews: If your eBooks are pricey and the content inside them is substantial, then allowing readers to preview a chapter of your book is an excellent way to prove that the book is worth paying for.
  • File Type: There are several file types that you can use for your eBooks. AZW can be used only for Amazon Kindle, but EPUB and PDF are the most popular ones and can be opened on any type of device and reader.

Web Applications

Web-based apps are closely related to software. They’re not digital products per se, but are sold and distributed in the same manner.

As the publishing business progresses towards a cloud-based future, a web-based service can provide consumers with a unified experience that is much more than just a subscription.

If you want to offer a web-based application as an addition to your publishing experience, here’s what you need to focus on:

  • Pricing: The subscription price should depend on the features that your web app provides its users with, whether it’s integratable with other platforms, and how it can improve the readers’ businesses.
  • Revenue: Web-based applications are perfect for generating recurring revenue. You can set up various membership levels, and reserve the best features for your premium subscribers.
  • Distribution: Hosting the web-based app on your site with the help of a proper hosting and adequate cloud storage is the best distribution method.

Consulting Services

You can also sell professional services in the same manner as with the rest of your digital products. With services, as a publisher, you’re selling your expertise and time to the consumers. Let’s take Bloomberg, the global financial publisher, and analytics corporation, as an example.

bloomberg homepage

They serve hundreds of thousands of clients and paying customers all over the world. One of their most powerful products is data analytics, which is also comprised of Portfolio Management and Real-Time trading.

bloomberg terminal services

Image Source: Bloomberg Terminal

Additionally, Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Government provide expert knowledge for lawyers and political analysts.

The above is just a tip of the iceberg of all the digital services that you can provide as a WordPress publisher.


As the e-Learning industry grew throughout the years, we saw publishers that started to include course materials, educational videos, and audiobooks in their editorial strategy.

entrepreneur store

Image Source: Entrepreneur Store

You can sell your courses just like any other digital product on your publishing site. Besides the increased revenue, through an e-learning program, you will also reach broader audiences and hopefully retain them.

Digital Advertising

Next up on our list is Digital Advertising. In a nutshell, it’s the presentation of advertisements on your website or mobile application, and making money from users that interact with the ads.

Your clients or advertisers can only put an advertisement on your website if you allow them an inventory for it. Inventory is any space on a given site where you can place an ad. Each inventory has a specific size depending on how much whitespace you have available on your pages.

advertisement in sidebar

Image Source: Forbes

Digital advertising is a popular monetization method because of something called a demand stack.

A demand stack is a group of demand partners or advertisers that compete with each other to have their ads displayed on your website. This works through a technique called header bidding. According to Digiday, header bidding is defined as:

”An advanced programmatic technique wherein publishers offer inventory to multiple ad exchanges simultaneously before making calls to their ad servers. The idea is that by letting multiple demand sources bid on the same inventory at the same time, publishers increase their yield and make more money.”

Demand partners know the inventory that they’re bidding for and place their bids accordingly. Placing bids is pretty much like putting a certain amount of money toward a share in the stock market.

stock market

Let’s say that you have seven different bidders. All of them will place their bids for that ad inventory, and the one with the highest bid will win the placement.

Core Metrics That You Need to Focus On

laptop displaying metrics

Let’s discuss the most important metrics that would help you determine the engagement and profitability of your WordPress publishing site.

Pages per Session

Pages per session is a metric that shows you the amount of page views accumulated over a single user session. It helps you assess how engaged the users, that land on your pages, are.

When you think about pages per session, analyze how the design of your pages influences each session. Is your WordPress site easy to navigate? Do users regularly click on the ‘Related Posts’ sections and move from article to article?

If you manage to motivate users enough to stick around and interact with your content, they will visit more pages as a result. To aid your monetization efforts, make sure that the design of your site guides the users to the most valuable pages.

If users open pages and bounce off quickly, it might indicate that you’re not providing the value that they’re looking for, or that something on the page is causing the bad UX that is driving users away.

Revenue per Session (RPS)

Revenue per session refers to the income that advertisements on your site have generated over a single user session. This metric informs you what you need to optimize as a publisher to achieve greater profit from each of your readers. The formula for calculating RPS is:

The Amount of Ad Impressions x Bid Value / Sessions = RPS

There are few more metrics that you need to focus on as a publisher:

  • Win Rate: A percentage of the total number of impressions gained via programmatic purchasing divided by the amount of ad impressions that the advertisers bid for.
  • Cost per Mile (CPM): CPM represents the “cost per thousand” (mille, Latin for 1000). It’s how much the advertisers will pay for the thousand impressions that their ads will get.
  • Viewability: How much an advertisement is visible on the page measured as a percentage.

Each of the metrics above are dependent on one another, and will have a big impact on your revenue as a publisher.

Website Traffic

3 types of web traffic

Of course, none of the monetization methods and metrics matter if you’re not able to attract traffic to your site. The great thing about having a publishing site built on top of WordPress is that the scalability and traffic potential are at a maximum level. Overall, there are three types of web traffic:

  • Organic Traffic: Users that reached your website as a result of unpaid search results.
  • Paid Traffic: Users that arrived on your website by interacting with ads and promotions.
  • Other Sources: Referrals, direct clicks, social clicks, email clicks.

Organic traffic is of major importance because when users type in a query, they usually have a clear search intent. If you can give them the answer through your content, the chances of gaining a new loyal reader, subscriber, and a follower are much higher.

Furthermore, organic traffic is crucial because it boosts website trust. Users trust in the websites that rank high on search engines. Hence, the likelihood that you will convert a web visitor that came to your site from a search engine is much higher than a visitor from social media.

The key distinction that separates organic traffic from paid search traffic is that the first one is free while paid traffic is bought. Paid traffic provides immediate results.

When you rank well on Google, you will get steady traffic as a result of your SEO efforts. However, with paid traffic methods such as PPC advertising, the results are instant.

There are lots of paid traffic sources, and a combination of both organic and paid traffic is often the best way to grow your website:

  • Facebook: Facebook ads are obligatory for every publisher that wants to succeed with paid traffic. You can create dynamic campaigns, retarget specific audiences, all according to your budget.
  • Snapchat: With Snapchat, you can advertise branded content through Snap Ads, all in a single swipe.
  • Outbrain and Taboola: They are third-party vendors that provide an ad widget containing promoted and reputable links from other websites.

Facebook is arguably the biggest paid traffic source. It’s widespread, and it’s not limited to any continent. However, the company does have strict policies for advertising on its platform. They demand that the ad density (relation between content and advertisement on your page) you have on your page to be as low as possible.

Hence, you need to have fewer advertisements and more content on your pages if you want to advertise on Facebook.

As a publisher, you can work around these rules by advertising pages that don’t contain ads on the first page but start with advertisements from page two onwards.

Snapchat is also a platform that has become extremely viral. It’s a competitor of Facebook, with its giant user base, and less strict advertising policies for publishers compared to Facebook. They don’t have limitation policies about the page density, but they do have rules for the page layouts.

Outbrain and Taboola are not social media networks. They have something that is called a “Content Discovery Platform”. Imagine having custom content widgets on your website, except that they’re placed on your site from another platform.

taboola feed

Image Source: ABC News

It is basically advertising someone else’s content through your website. The cool thing about Outbrain and Taboola is that they have various news policies according to the page density demands. They’re still profitable, which makes publishers prefer them from time to time.

Page Layouts as Monetization Techniques

Layouts can help you serve monetizable content in various ways:

  • Gallery Layout
  • Infinite Scroll
  • Hybrid Layout
  • Quiz Layout

The Gallery layout is one of the most common layouts in digital publishing. It is a post with inner pagination, where you have navigation buttons between pages.

pagination example

Image Source: Dribble

The structure of the Gallery layout is pretty simple. It usually has a headline (title), an image, and short content in regards to the image. With this layout, you get a lot of free space to place advertisements in.

That can be excellent for your revenue, but it was not entirely tolerated in the advertising industry. When Facebook announced that they were going to ban the layout, publishers drifted away from it and started choosing different alternatives.

The layout works better for advertising on Snapchat and Outbrain or Taboola.

The Infinite Scroll Layout is a bit similar to the Gallery layout. The only difference in the Infinite Scroll layout, the navigation happens while the users are scrolling. Users don’t have to click on buttons to move around the pages.


Source: Digiday

However, loading all that amount of “infinite” content on your page can bloat your site and slow it down. With that, chances are higher that users will bounce off the page, depending on how powerful their device is.

The Hybrid Layout is a mix of the Gallery and Infinite Scroll layouts. It is an experimental layout that increases engagement because it allows users to browse the web page through a gallery or an infinite scroll format.

That’s what makes this layout more interactive than the rest. However, it’s a bit trickier to implement it because you’re merging two layouts together. Its usage in traffic sources is less popular, but besides social media networks, it should work for Outbrain and Taboola as well.

Quiz Layouts are a different way of serving up content. They are way more engaging than articles, and more flexible in terms of templates.

quizz layout

Image Source: Obsev

For example, you can have a single page quiz with 25 questions or a multiple page layout. For instance, if it’s a 25 question quiz, the first question will be on page one, the second one on page two, and so on.

next question quiz

Quizzes are engaging because they urge the users to browse more, meaning that they will see more advertisements on your site as a result. Because they offer so many engagement options for the users, the inventories in quizzes are flexible to work with.

You can advertise the quiz layout on every network. However, quizzes are trickier to implement on a website. It’s not something that comes straight out of WordPress’s toolset. There are also not that many ready-to-go plugins, and if you find some, you need to ensure that they’re properly configured for your build.


In a nutshell, advertising still works when it comes to revenue growth for publishers. Yes, ad blockers can prevent advertisements from showing on your page. But, there are also counter-services that detect ad blockers that prevent users from viewing the page if they are using an ad blocker.

In that regard, and with everything that I’ve mentioned above, there is a lot more to expect in 2020 regarding WordPress publishing and layouts.

You must keep in mind that the underlying technology that WordPress provides to publishers is flexible and extensible, so you don’t have to invest in new technology when you need to implement a new monetization trend or technique.

Watch the WordCamp Talk Video Here:

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