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How publishers can develop a content-to-commerce strategy

November 3, 2020 | By Rande Price, Research Director – DCN @Randeloo

For quality publishers with strong consumer relationships, a content-to-commerce strategy offers a valuable revenue diversification approach. The International News Media Association’s (INMA) new report, Content-to-Commerce Brings Revenue in Post-Advertising World, outlines key considerations, strategies and their implementations to help publishers build this line of revenue.

While ecommerce may sound straightforward, successful implementation is not easy. First, a publisher’s brand must have a purpose, a reason to exist for the consumer. It needs to be authentic, possess an emotional quality, and present a personality. If a publisher meets this high bar, then it can begin the work of developing a commerce strategy because its content connection to a purchasable product will be valuable to consumers.

The major models

The INMA report identifies three basic content-to-commerce models:

  1. Affiliate models, which send customers to an outside product link, earning the publishers a percentage of the purchase revenue.
  2. Attribution marketing, which tracks touchpoints from consumer to purchase, assigning a value to the touchpoints in the journey. If the publisher, is an effect touchpoint, they receive a percentage of revenue.
  3. Direct ecommerce, which offers company-owned products to consumers allowing for both higher revenue and higher conversions.

An integrated platform

Sweden’s Aftonbladet, a Schibsted-owned company and the largest news platform in the Nordic countries, partners with ecommerce platform Tipser. To sell products, Aftonbladet pairs its content with integrated ecommerce platform. They most often place embedded ecommerce in their features departments such as food and health. Aftonbladet made an important decision at the start not to integrate ecommerce in hard news content.

Aftonbladet recommends that publishers be completely transparent. For example, they need to communicate if they include embedded ecommerce elements in their content. An embedded ecommerce model should help build reader loyalty, not weaken it.

The content connection

Aftonbladet also creates content around ecommerce related products. If consumers search for a product of interest, it can lead to Aftonbladet’s library of content. It’s a great way to bring consumers to Aftonbladet content, connect them to products and increase overall traffic to the site.

The New York Times uses an ecommerce model with Wirecutter, which it acquired in 2016. Wirecutter is designed to help readers’ by offering them recommendations for retail purchases across multiple categories. The brand does a lot of the work for the consumer by providing product details, comparisons, and recommendations. Wirecutter Guides talk to category experts. They do the research, test the products, and find the best option in any category, then offer an unbiased recommendation.

Wirecutter maintains a reader-first mission, with a secondary focus on ecommerce. It also offers exclusive deals through their merchants and retailers. Wirecutter made an important editorial decision early on that product reviews cannot be influenced by a retail partnership. The core focus is to recommend the right product for the right consumer.

Question your approach

The INMA report identifies four key questions for publishers to address when identifying the right ecommerce model.

  1. What do your readers need that you can provide that benefits them?
  2. What’s the shortest journey to get it to them?
  3. How can you make money from doing that?
  4. How does your content lead the way?

As ever, a publisher’s primary goal must be to provide content that serves an audience. Then, they can build out an effective strategy to monetize their content and audience relationship throughout the customer’s ecommerce journey.

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