While advertising remains dear to their hearts, digital publishers are increasingly relying on ecommerce to bring in revenue.
Thrillist Media Group has been particularly aggressive
about adding ecommerce to its editorial mix. Taking such efforts a step further, the company is expected to start a “Shops” initiative on Monday, which will bake product and service sales
directly into editorial features.
“Our strategy has always been to not be single-minded in how we think about revenue,” Ben Lerer, co-founder and CEO of TMG, told
Online Media Daily
. “Since the beginning, we’ve believed in monetizing through both media and commerce.”
Shops will span TMG’s three content
properties -- Thrillist, The Crosby Press and the recently launched product guide Supercompressor -- and will be designed to add value to the user experience.
For instance, Lerer and
company reason that if Thrillist’s core readership of young males is shown a travel editorial, a few may like luggage and hotel recommendations too -- or if they are reading a story about pants,
some may be inclined to buy a pair at that moment.
Powered by TMG’s ecommerce engine Jackthreads, Shops will launch complete with a customer service, merchandising and
fulfillment infrastructure. Shopping categories will include menswear, home, grooming, gear and gadgets.
Scoffing at traditional barriers between editorial and commerce, Lerer said:
“Editorial sensitivity is the excuse other businesses use, but in reality the thing that prevents them from doing this is the inability to properly execute a commerce strategy because it's hard,
time-consuming and costly.”
“Of course, there is [editorial sensitivity] when you combine content and commerce and we think about that a lot … but innovative
companies find ways to make it work.”
Analysts, however, question how far publishers like TMG can push the ecommerce envelope before turning off readers.
It’s a “tough” proposition regarding publishers’ best efforts to integrate ecommerce and “it really never works,” said Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, ecommerce
analyst for Forrester Research. “People just don't read editorial and then buy.”
Added Mulpuru-Kodali: “JackThreads is a better business, and it’s
Lerer says TMG’s revenue speaks for itself. “We're still projecting $75-$100 million in revenue,” Lerer said of 2013.
Adding an ad
component, Microsoft’s Outlook.com has signed on as Shops’ launch partner. The email service is expected to support exclusive deals (for shoppers with Outlook.com accounts), including
early sale access, discounts, and giveaways.
What’s the connection between Outlook.com and ecommerce? “We know that 80% of inboxes are comprised of commercial
email,” explained Raphael Aquino-Jose, senior product marketing manager at Outlook. “That's the newsletters, shopping deals and delivery notifications [consumers] subscribe to …
Email is an integral part of the shopping paradigm.”
In fact, 71% of customers are influenced to take action from an email including purchase, Aquino-Jose noted, citing data
Shops also seizes on the “native” ad model that has recently become popular with digital publishers. No stranger to native, TMG has long labeled
advertorials as “Allied” fare. This summer, Thrillist helped Acura promote its new MDX by offering special incentives to Acura owners and associating the brand with young innovators.