What is a Digital Media Company? The Definition is Changing…

What is a Digital Media Company? The Definition is Changing…

JK Sparks 9 min

What is a Digital Media Company in 2023?

What is the definition of a digital media company?

A digital media company is any business that publishes content—including articles, podcasts, videos, ebooks, and more—online. Digital media companies may also specialize in providing the technology for publishing and sharing this content online. However, in recent years, the definition is expanding to any company which distributes its media through online channels these companies own.

The media landscape is changing. Before the digital revolution, large audiences could be difficult to access, requiring partnerships with a select group of outlets—TV channels, radio stations, newspapers, and production companies. The digital revolution changed that. Social media made it possible for anyone with an Internet connection to become a content provider.

But digital media has gone beyond social media, too. Today, the definition of a digital media company isn’t just a business that produces its own media. It’s also a company that owns its platforms and channels of distribution.

The old way of doing things was simple: pay money to rent someone else’s media reach. Rent TV advertising time. Buy PPC ads and hope for the best. Purchase advertising in video content to get views. But as media consumption changes, so should the definition of a media company.

If your company produces content and distributes that content to a list it owns, then it might fall under this definition’s umbrella, too.

Below, you’ll find our guide for the ever-expanding definition of a digital media company:

Why Every Company is Becoming a Media Company

A traditional media company owned much of the access to large audiences. Think broadcast companies, radio companies, and search engines. But as the digital world is making it possible for you to build your audience independent of these companies, traditional media is giving way to owned media.

The landscape isn’t changin g without reason. In our post about why every company is becoming a digital media company, we highlighted three key changes incentivizing companies to own their media distribution:

  • New content formats. It’s not just blog posts anymore. Digital marketing has expanded to podcasts, short and long-form videos, live streams, and more.

  • Data privacy changes. In 2023, new regulations will kick in that make it harder to track third-party data from search engine users. This puts pressure on businesses to collect their own first-party data through surveys and voluntary data.

  • De-platforming from social media. Companies are avoiding third-party control of their media more and more. Social media remains a valuable amplifying tool, but many companies prefer to own their SMS, email, and newsletter marketing lists.

We’ve previously highlighted the business impact of moving to the owned media strategy. And it primarily has to do with the problems listed above. Data privacy changes, for example, might require expanding social media marketing budgets to compensate. And one roundtable of experts is already agreeing, at a rate of 60%, that old-fashioned SEO is more difficult than it was five years ago.

Digital media is still one of the most powerful ways to leverage content marketing. But to make it work in 2023 and beyond, companies have to embrace a wholistic digital media company mindset. This sets the stage for the modern marketer, as we explained in our podcast, The Media Marketer. But how do digital media companies make the dollars and cents work?

How Digital Media Companies Make Money

There is no single marketing strategy called the “digital media company marketing strategy.” Business impact of owned media varies from industry to industry. The strategy can be as diverse as including everything from email marketing to social media platforms. But it changes for every need.

Are you a media industry leader looking to improve your thought leadership reputation? Are you a marketing agency trying to get more traction on users’ mobile devices? What you do will vary from purpose to purpose.

There are just as many questions as answers here. But here are a few examples of how today’s digital media companies make their money:

  • Software: In many cases, digital platforms double as digital media companies. That’s the case with Adobe’s software. About 90% of the world’s creative professionals use Adobe Photoshop software alone. But the company also sells tutorials, stock images and videos, and cloud offerings for storing the media users produce.

  • DTC Products: The famous Tollhouse cookie recipe is a timeless example of content marketing meeting a DTC product. Any time you see companies leverage DTC products (or media) to sell one or the other, you have a similar recipe for success. It works well for legacy print media, too. Consider the New Yorker’s combination of digital subscriptions, monthly publications, and merchandise a modern-day twist on this method.

  • Subscriptions: This is the digital media equivalent of the classic newspaper and magazine model. More and more, you see institutions like The New York Times embracing the model, as they did with their purchase of the million-subscriber online-only source, The Athletic. This is a straightforward approach: pay a monthly fee, and you can read all month long.

  • Digital Events: In-person live events used to be the way to deliver proprietary information to your audience. But the COVID-19 pandemic showed that digital events can have just as much pull, while digital leverage makes it possible to earn even more money selling digital events.

  • Sponsored Content: YouTube videos and podcasts are two media examples where sponsored, but mostly ad-free, content rules the day. This is a win-win proposition for both sides of the media equation. The podcaster gets a source of revenue while the sponsor gets to target a niche-specific, highly-engaged audience.

  • Affiliate Links & Advertising: Affiliate marketing is alive and well in the digital world. A media company that mostly sells blog content, like Serious Eats, can gain a reputation for recommending great equipment and products. Turn those recommendations into affiliate links, and you’ve created a media empire.

Trailblazing Digital Media Companies in 2022

In the list above, we’ve explored some classic examples of companies with established success who used the new online marketing channels to create new revenue opportunities. But what about the new digital media companies filling out the modern digital economy?

One area to watch: digital platforms. As companies build their own digital infrastructure, they’re going to need someone to supply that structure. That’s where companies like Profitwell and Refine Labs are changing how media companies distribute their content. Here are some examples of digital media companies changing the landscape:

ProfitWell: Revenue Automation for Subscription Media

Not all subscriptions in the new media age have to be magazine subscriptions. ProfitWell is a great example of that, counting sites like Canva and BigCommerce among its clients. ProfitWell handles subscription infrastructure and automation for both B2C and B2B businesses.

A company offering subscription solutions for companies of all stripes might not be news to you. But ProfitWell’s services are also signs of the times. The key here: analytics. With Google’s third-party ad updates going into effect in 2023, it’s going to be increasingly important to capture as much first-party data as possible. Profitwell takes your subscription numbers and turns them into insight-rich analytics dashboards. It then uses these insights to reduce cancellations and handle credit card failures.

Refine Labs: Building Innovative Revenue Programs

Maybe your company fits neatly into one of the categories of digital media companies we listed above. Then again, maybe it doesn’t. Refine Labs is there for the companies who might have a large audience, but don’t necessarily have their finger on the pulse of what drives revenue in 2023 and beyond.

Their key service is “Revenue R&D,” a platform for beta testing new revenue programs with your audience. After a planning and discovery phase, they launch experimental revenue programs, watch the data, and help you find the success signals that show where your audience wants you to emphasize your campaigns.

AudiencePlus: Owned Media Software for B2B Companies

The M.O. at AudiencePlus is simple: every company is becoming a media company. You don’t have to be an expert in all types of digital media to understand how digital publishing is going to revolutionize both B2C and B2B businesses moving forward.

The key distinction at AudiencePlus is getting businesses to recognize that traditional media is not how they should discover audiences these days. Traditional marketing meant competition: every company vying for the most creative, influential way to advertise their products or services with exclusively-owned media giants.

But own your media platforms, and the equation changes. It feels less like public relations than forging a high-quality, direct bond with your audience. If you create media (like podcasts, videos, and helpful articles) and own the distribution to your audience, you don’t have to advertise on social media channels to gain influence. Traditional media simply becomes an amplifier for the engaged relationships you’ve been able to build on your own.

Operate like a New Digital Media Company

What is a media company? The definition is evolving just as quickly as the media are. Not long ago, the words “streaming service” would have sounded like a sideshow next to premium cable channels. But as the technology through which consumers discover media changes, so should your company.

But you can’t do it without a platform to build that media company, or the insights to know your next steps. Subscribe to AudiencePlus to learn how to operate like a media company embracing the world in 2023 and beyond.


JK Sparks | About the Author

Head of Marketing, AudiencePlus

JK is allergic to the words “guru, ninja, and hack” when used to describe anything marketing related. Instead of chasing the latest “growth hack” he’s focused on building sustainable and predictable levers that fuel healthy growth. This philosophy has led to success in both bootstrapped and well-funded environments scaling from <$100K to more than $100M in revenue. You can follow him here.

JK Sparks 9 min

What is a Digital Media Company? The Definition is Changing…

The definition of a digital media company is changing. Learn why every company is becoming a digital media company.

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