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The publishers’ guide to ecommerce

November 11, 2019 | By Rande Price, Research Director – DCN @Randeloo

While advertising and subscription revenues are core to publishers’ bottom line, developing alternative revenue streams is critical in today’s competitive environment. One diversification approach, ecommerce, has evolved well beyond affiliate links and branded content. A new report from Whatsnewinpublishing.com, The Publisher’s Guide to eCommerce, written by Damien Radcliffe, explores emerging ecommerce opportunities and lessons learned from publishers. The report details 10 ecommerce examples from publishers. Some used third parties to implement their ecommerce initiative, while others are developing inhouse teams.

The right recipe

As the report points out, eCommerce is not easy work for a publisher. They need to be thoughtful in identifying the benefits of brand extensions and messaging this to the consumer. Importantly, product relevance and quality must exist to build customer loyalty for any brand extension.

Tasty, BuzzFeed’s food brand, provides a great example of a healthy brand extension that organically fits its brand with snack-size recipes and videos. It successfully broadens the brand’s reach beyond its core site and social media channels. Tasty products include cookbooks and kitchenware, and even a partnership with McCormick Spices.

The report suggests that publishers stick close to their wheelhouse. For example, there might be a lucrative business living within their articles and photographs archives. The Denver Post and the The Seattle Times lead strong ecommerce channels selling special events and news coverage clippings for memorabilia, wall art, and keepsakes. Third parties are often used for the fulfillment, creation and distribution of these products, which reduces some of the publishers’ risks.

Social shopping

Social commerce is another interesting avenue for publishers to keep in mind. GlobalWebIndex research finds that nearly 3 in 10 online consumers say that researching and finding products online is one of the main reasons they use social. These platforms offer an opportunity for publishers to reach new and wider audiences.

As such, media analysts thought that social platforms would provide an optimal environment for a publisher ecommerce marketplace. Unfortunately, it hasn’t panned out just yet. However, Snap appears to offer a strong potential for experimenting in ecommerce. The research emphasizes that it is critical that publishers working to offer purchase opportunities on social strive for a frictionless experience.

Regardless of the approach, the report reminds publishers not to underestimate the cost and complexity of running an ecommerce division. It’s like building a startup business: Technology investments will be required (acquisition and fulfillment software) as well as those for merchandise and warehousing.

Challenges and rewards

First-party insights are important for a successful ecommerce initiative. This is particularly critical in establishing a correlation between the content the user engages into the product searches and products the user buys. Creating this type of first- party relationship between content and product will allow publishers to offer predictive analytics.  

There are a multitude of ecommerce ideas for publishers to experiment, from affiliate relationships to developing and selling proprietary products. Importantly, each ecommerce opportunity must be evaluated carefully to meet the necessary criteria to compliment the publisher’s brand. And publishers must recognize the level of investment required to undertake a successful ecommerce initiative.  

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