September 26, 2011 by George Eberstadt
It used to be simpler. Advertising was the main bridge between content and commerce. If you had the sort of business that generated an audience (a content business), you’d monetize that by selling ad space to the sort of businesses that sold “stuff” (a commerce business).
Then, along came the internet, and the amount that content businesses could get paid per eyeball fell drastically relative to the old print world. The content businesses that worked online were those that either developed a radically lower cost of content creation (esp social) or those that were able to generate vastly more eyeballs. But many content businesses still have the relatively high cost of professional content production and haven’t expanded their readership online enough to compensate for lower ad rates. These businesses, in particular, are (finally) starting to get more creative about alternatives to advertising to monetize their audiences.
Today, the New York Times reports on an interesting example. The title says it pretty clearly: Magazines Begin to Sell the Fashion They Review. This struck us because we’ve been working with another business that has been pursuing that strategy for a few years. FW Media is a print publisher for enthusiasts of writing, painting, collecting, and similar subjects. When they brought their publications online and saw the fall in ad revenue, they tackled the changed environment head on. Instead of selling their audience for pennies per visitor to advertisers, they decided to capture 100% of the commerce value of their visitors by opening their own online stores offering products that the readers of their content properties would want. It’s a great case of taking lemons and making lemonade: the internet diminished their advertising revenue, but at the same time it made it possible for them to skip the advertising step entirely and directly fulfill the commerce demand they were creating. And now, in the NYTimes, we read:
“What magazines have always done is to create desire in consumers,” said Mr. Granger of Esquire. “The next logical step is to fulfill that desire by selling the product. If we don’t do it, somebody else is going to.”
While this strategy of directly joining content and commerce under one roof appears to be working for FW and may also work for Vogue, GQ and Esquire, we think there is a third path to bridge content and commerce that will prove at least as powerful: community. In addition to changing the way content is delivered and stuff is bought, the internet has also made the way people participate in both for more active. Got an opinion about something you just read? Comment on it. Got an opinion about something you just bought? Review it. Got a question about something you are thinking of buying? Ask about it. Bought something? Answer those questions. Community no longer means “the people who read your content” or “the people who buy your stuff”. Now community means “the people who interact with each other around your content and your stuff”.
Today, content site communities and commerce site communities are separate because that’s how the technology works – one community per property. But technology limitations fall when they don’t match the way people really interact. Communities, in the real world, are defined by shared interests, not URLs. So in the future we see, whether the commerce and content businesses are managed separately or share a roof, their communities will be joined. Fashionistas will read Vogue, buy from Saks, and interact with each other seamlessly on both. Watercolorists will learn technique at The Artists Network, shop at NorthLightShop, and interact with each other seamlessly on both. Photographers will read Popular Photography, shop at Adorama, and interact with each other seamlessly on both. And that seamless interaction will provide a new and powerful way for content businesses to monetize.
So if you manage a content business and are trying to find more value in your audience, think about building ecommerce capabilities, and also think about ways to build stronger bridges to your ecommerce partners by leveraging your shared communities.
August 18, 2009 by George Eberstadt
We’ve just released an announcement welcoming 17 additional partner merchants, travel sites, and non-profits that have recently gone live or will be shortly. These new partners include:
- Intrepid Travel: offering over 650 trips in over 100 countries, specializing in ‘off the beaten track’ adventures, organizing trips for 20 years, with over 70,000 travelers joining them each year.
- Jomashop: No. 209 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has been in the wholesale and retail trade of upscale luxury brand name goods such as watches, fine writing instruments, handbags and luxury crystal since it was founded in New York in 1987.
- Stylin’ Trucks, a (sister) company of JC Whitney: a 20-year leader in providing performance products for sport, off-road and pick-up trucks, as well as SUVs. Parent auto parts retailer J.C. Whitney & Co. is No. 115 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.
- EyeBuyDirect: A leading online eyewear seller and an Internet Retailer Hot 100, EyeBuyDirect is a global prescription lab and optical retailer specializing in the volume production of affordable prescription eyeglasses.
- Overstock Art: the Internet leader in hand painted oil painting reproductions at clearance prices.
- BeyondtheRack: a private shopping club for men and women who want designer brands at prices up to 70% off retail.
- The Watchery: No. 278 in the Internet Top 500 offers brand name watches at substantial discounts to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.
- F+W Media: offers community, content, and connectivity to focused markets of highly passionate enthusiast communities.
- Country Pet: a producer of all-natural pet food and treats, running on a NetSuite platform.
- The Mountain Fund: dedicated to achieving the Millennium Development Goals at the grassroots level, The Mountain Fund and its global network of partners span every corner of the globe eliminating poverty in mountain regions.
- CoffeeCakes.com: with an ever-expanding product line includes coffeecakes, whiskey cakes, rum cakes and travel mugs, CoffeeCakes.com distinguishes itself from other Internet retailers because of its obsession with providing superior customer service.
- Accessory Geeks: delivers high quality cell phone & iPod accessories while providing information with geeky expertise.
- Jamestown Distributors: an industry leader in marine and building supplies for over 30 years.
- Bloomex.ca: a national Canadian Floral company.
- Christian Cinema: a motion picture production and distribution company founded in 1999, born out of a desire to connect independent Christian filmmakers with consumers.
- Black Helmet Apparel: founded by a fireman for firefighters, Black Helmet Apparel designs are hand drawn, and unique.
- Wireless Emporium: provides consumers and on-the-go professionals a one-stop shop for cellular phone and wireless device accessories as the leader in wireless accessories.