“Things” to Sell: Sparking New Ideas for Publishers

My last post “Rediscovering the Sense and Economics of Publishing ‘Things’” was, I’m happy to say, well-received. We heard from publishers via email, Twitter, and phone calls that the post spoke to a core concern they’d been having about “the digital future” equaling a purely “free content” future. We, of course, argue that it doesn’t have to be. And we surely don’t want it to be.

In a purely-free content future, content creation must be supported by advertising dollars. This leads to (at best) split loyalties or (at worst) the wrong loyalties from the publishers who shoehorn product pitches into content or churn our sensationalistic drivel to drive clicks. Publishers would need to produce “clicks”—not quality content. And the whole publishing industry devolves into a giant steaming pile of digital click bait.

We don’t want to see that happen. And, to be frank, I don’t think it will happen. Content creation is a sacred human act, and audiences will remember that it produces something worth money. BUT, the publishing industry has got to figure out how to package that content so that it is salable. Which leads me to my point….

After I posted my previous “Things” post, we received a question from a publisher:

“I don’t publish issues. I publish a blog. You tell me to sell things. What content can I sell?”

We may have made a mistake in naming our most popular plugin, IssueM. Perhaps it would have been more appropriately named, ThingM.

IssueM, when combined with Leaky Paywall, makes selling content possible for more than just issue publishers. Think of the “issue” as the “thing.” That “thing” can take any form/name you want to give it: ebook, collection, download, gallery, etc. Any blogger, writer, cartoonist, journal, magazine, book publisher can stuff an “issue” with their best content (either new or from the archives) and sell it as shiny package of quality content—on the web, on mobile, or as a download.

So here are a few ideas for you folks who are struggling with the question, “What do I sell?”

  • Themed Collections based on your previously-published content
    • How-To Collection
    • Holiday Collection
    • The Interviews
    • Best Reader Letters
    • Most Popular Posts
    • The Year in Review
    • The Best XYZ Collection (fishing holes, tire irons, bounce castles, etc.)
    • The Stories that Got Cut (aka Blooper Reel)
    • The Photograph Collection
    • And so on…
  • Special Issues based on currently hot topics (which is great for SEO) pulled either from new content or old
    • The Middle East Issue
    • The Superbowl Issue
    • The Justin Bieber Retrospective
    • The Mortgage-Free Issue
    • The Organic Farming Project Issue
    • The Childrens’ Issue
    • The Recipes Issue
    • And so on…
  • Premium Content created by your best writers, photographers, cartoonists, etc.
    • Any article or content you couldn’t afford to produce on your usual budget. Could there be a way to do it if people paid for the content?

I don’t know your particular publishing niche, model, or situation. But I hope these general ideas will spark some excitement and ideas for your publication. If you’re stuck, I’m happy to kick around ideas with you. Just leave a comment below.

Now go dig into your archives, find your most useful and popular content, package it anew, and start selling.