BuzzFeed is doing it. So is Vox Media, POPSUGAR, and dozens of other new media publishers. Selling products directly to consumers has become one of the latest ways for online publishers to generate revenue in 2021. What’s behind the push to sell, and what does it mean to use commerce as a product?
The topic of offering commerce as a product has come up more frequently in recent months. Although e-commerce has been in the background for many magazine publishers for years, the growing number of digital channels that publishers can sell through has significantly increased the revenue potential. Now, online publishers are ramping up their commerce plays, starting with launching their own in-house shopping websites.
BuzzFeed is an early leader in this space. The digital-first media company has been generating revenue through affiliate links for years. In July 2020, the company launched its own standalone shopping website.
Selling products directly to consumers is a strategy that traditional magazines can take advantage of, as well.
Three primary areas of opportunity are:
1. Affiliate Linking
Affiliate links are the most popular form of commerce among magazine publishers, so much so that embedding affiliate links within editorial content is now a strategy that the majority of publishers are using.
Products that are mentioned in articles or reviews will frequently be linked, and readers can click to buy directly through the publisher’s links. The publisher is compensated by the retailer with a percentage of each sale. With a large enough readership, publishers can generate significant revenue with this strategy.
Shopping widgets have also become commonplace on media websites. Widgets separate out the shopping from the editorial content, making it more clear to readers what is editorial and what is paid. The downside is that the sidebar space filled by shopping widgets could otherwise be used for paid display advertising, so publishers are potentially missing out on some advertising revenue when they add shopping widgets to their websites.
A number of free shopping widgets and WordPress plugins are available for publishers that want to go this route.
3. Shoppable Photos
This strategy is a little less common among digital publishers, but it’s no less effective from a revenue standpoint. Shoppable photos are most often seen on fashion magazine websites, under headings like “Get the Look” or “As Seen On.” When the publisher uploads an image, special third-party technology is used to match the items in the photo to available inventory on a linked retailer’s website.
Although shoppable photos are incredible in theory, the technology to accurately detect the items in an image hasn’t been perfected, and publishers are often left paying third-party providers for help selling products directly to consumers. This is an obstacle that’s bypassed when publishers sell products directly through their own e-commerce websites.
Publishers Launch Standalone Shopping Websites
Magazine publishers are launching their own standalone shopping websites, where they’re selling products directly to consumers online. This means publishers aren’t being forced to split the revenue they generate with a third-party service provider, and they are usually earning much more than they would through affiliate links.
Launching a standalone website also ensures that readers aren’t going somewhere else after they complete their purchase. This decreases bounce rates and increases the time readers spend on the publisher’s website.
Developing a shopping website has gotten easier thanks to more checkout providers entering the space and new native commerce technology that extends the checkout process beyond typical e-commerce platforms. New media companies are selling products directly to consumers through their own mobile apps, bypassing the traditional e-commerce website experience altogether.
To boost the SEO for their shopping websites, publishers are having their editorial teams write unique content that spotlights the products or brands available on their websites. In most cases, this content is wholly separate from the content on the publisher’s primary website.
Industry experts are predicting that shopping directly on media websites may soon become just as common as shopping on traditional retailer websites, especially as more publishers look for revenue outside of traditional advertising sales.
Is this an approach your publication has considered? To discover how Web Publisher PRO can help you grow your business through revenue diversification, schedule a consultation today.