UMASS Analysis of the Business Model Outlet Question

Spend ten minutes browsing online news like you normally would in your downtime. (If you have an ad blocker installed, please disable it for this exercise.) How many ads do you see? How many ads stuck out to you? How many ads are obtrusive, or blocking your view of the content? Were there calls from the publication you were reading for you to spend money on other things—subscriptions, premium content (the NYT’s puzzles or Cooking sections), conferences, associated products?

This class is about how journalistic outlets make money in the online age—something that has changed seemingly every year since the first

banner ad

appeared on the then-nascent web in 1994. (It looked kind of like the image at the top of

this page

.) The below pieces outline how various publications make money—or at least try to. Take note of them for when you analyze how the outlet you’ve been analyzing this semester gets its staff members paid.

Next, read:

Online Advertising: Everything You Need to Know in 2021

, Corey Briaccaliini, HubSpot

Paywall model breakdown: The current landscape and new frontier

, Nalini Edward, Chartbeat

The Times hits its goal of 10 million subscriptions with the addition of The Athletic.

, Marc Tracy, NY Times

Morning Brew tops 4 million newsletter subscribers as it looks to expand with M&A

, Alex Sherman, CNBC


, is Your Friend for Bypassing Paywalls. But is That Okay?

, Leaf & Core

T Brand Studio

, official site (T Brand Studio is the “content studio” of The New York Times, which produces advertiser-bankrolled content known as “branded content”; Vox Media’s

The Explainer Studio

is another example of this)

The Substackerati

, Clio Chang, CJR

Substack’s new platform play

, Casey Newman, Nieman Lab

How Complex entered the race to earn revenue from audience insights

, Kayleigh Barber, Digiday

Vogue Business: Membership

, Vogue Business

Conde Nast to Open

Allure Store

in New York City

, Conde Nast PR / Allure Store (official site)’s journalistic experiment began with a staff walkout. It might actually be working.

, Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post

Then, do:

Analyze the business model (or models) of the outlet you’ve been covering this semester. Your 500-word essay should include their strategies for monetization and talk about how those strategies reflect the content. Any way a publication makes money counts—advertising, subscriptions, events, games like Wordle, paid apps, memberships, etc. Should you be unsure over whether something counts, feel free to reach out.

Some tips on finding this information:

Look up press releases by your outlet and its parent company;

Seek out the specs your outlet gives to advertisers, which are usually public (you can Google it by searching “rate card” or other terms used

on The Boston Globe’s parent company’s advertiser site)


Look up articles on other sites about the outlet, which will likely discuss the money that goes in and out.

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