Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

A majority of online publishers are reporting a commerce content boom. Don’t be in the minority.

By Matt Sheppard, Customer Success Director, impact.com

In a turbulent world crying out for solutions to big problems, it is reliably heartening to see reports of extraordinary progress, whether in the form of miraculously rapid vaccines or meaningful measures to combat the climate crisis.

In comparison to these global challenges, the plight of digital publishers might seem to belong a rung or two lower. But in reality, the availability of quality journalism and the broader health of the press, traditional and digital, are an important piece in the jigsaw puzzle of all our toughest tests.

So on the theme of good news, this certainly fits: according to a recent survey by impact.com and FORTUNE Brand Studio, 57 per cent of online media executives and experts in the United States, Great Britain, Germany and Australia believe the income from commerce content will increase by at least 25 per cent per year in the next few years. A quarter of those surveyed even expect an annual growth rate of more than 50 per cent.

Commerce content enables readers to discover goods and services in trusted editorial environments. Done well, such content represents a seamless meeting of its two component words. Reviews, listings, buyer’s guides and other types of content, produced with credibility and integrity, put publishers and brands in a mutually beneficial partnership.

The benefits are broad but essentially three-fold: commerce content drives revenue for publishers, generates upper-funnel awareness and purchase intent for brands and enriches the editorial environment for consumers, who increasingly shop online and know the value of a trusted recommendation.

According to our research, many publishers are already drawing positive results from their content programmes: 45 per cent of respondents said their total sales had increased, 41 per cent saw an improved cash flow and 34 per cent were able to increase their profit margins.

For those who aren’t yet on board, here are the basics:

Honesty is everything

The ultimate goal of content partnerships for publishers is to generate revenue by monetising the audience they have already worked so hard to build. Needless to say, honesty, credibility, authenticity – call it what you want – are all important. The onus is on publishers to partner only with those brands they know will genuinely appeal to their audience. Consumers, as any good publisher knows, can smell a cash-in a mile off.

New revenues, new method

Building an entirely new business channel is a big task for a conventional sales team. But the right centralised tool can offer publishers access to thousands of brands and enterprises and the ability to collaborate, manage and account for them all from one dashboard.

Better than the alternative

Display and classified advertising have taken a long-term hit, but the programmatic supply chain, from which much revenue is siphoned off by ad-tech – never really had publishers’ interests at heart. Working with a platform tool facilitates additional streams of revenue while cutting out those middlemen.

Understand your worth

Using advanced tracking and consumer journey insights, publishers can determine the value of their partnerships and glean context and data to bolster contract negotiations. For example, conversion data generated by partnerships between brands and the Ziff Media Group (which publishes sites including Mashable, PCMag.com and AskMen) allowed the publisher to see exactly where in the funnel any given type of content would be most effective.

Get paid faster

In the traditional ad-tech world, the publisher is often the last to get paid, with some cycles stretching to six months or more. With a partnership platform in place, publishers are able to cut out additional, unnecessary links in the supply chain and dramatically speed up the pace of payment.

Does all this mean that commerce content will save the world? Maybe not on its own, no. But against a backdrop of declining publisher revenue, falling CPMs, lengthening and increasingly costly ad supply chains and the Google/Facebook advertising duopoly, the emergence of a viable new revenue stream counts as a significant step in the right direction for independent media.

And the fact that centralised tools are there to help them do it right means there are no good reasons to let the opportunity go. For more information, look no further than impact.com’s Content Partnerships 101.

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