Publishers Find Ready Market In Holiday Shopping

With Black Friday behind us, and the holiday season stretching out ahead, retailers are looking for that seasonal bump in business. So are traditional publishers.

As publications struggle to maintain financial stability, if not gains, their revenue strategies become more interesting, stretching the limits of what’s traditionally been deemed acceptable in journalism.

Magazines like Domino and Lucky perfected the read-to-shop model in the 2000s, while sponsored content and advertorials have long been used to raise profits.

Now, the integration of online shopping while reading one’s favorite site has taken a new turn.

For the next month, “best of” and “hard to shop for lists” will fill the pages of sites all over the web, offering helpful suggestions and the ease of clicking through to buy at story’s end. For example: “Headphones of this caliber rarely go on sale—Shop now!” (CNN’s Underscored), “What Author Michael Cunningham Can't Live Without,” New York’s The Strategist) and “The Best Manual Razor for Most Faces” (The New York Time’s Wirecutter).



All are vying for a cut of consumer spending—when a customer clicks through on a product link in the  story, the publication receives a cut — with a proviso.  

Wirecutter and Underscored are both housed separately from editorial at their respective publications, with Underscored offering a disclaimer on its homepage stating that it is not affiliated with CNN’s editorial content. The Strategist approaches its content in a different manner.

Though it has been a part of New York’s print publication for decades, last year The Strategist was launched as an ecommerce site, and  recently added to the magazine’s homepage, positioned under other verticals like The Cut and Vulture. It offers best of Amazon lists or interviews with celebrities that turn into product-placement opportunities. 

The Strategist’s specialty is pieces written by contributors about an item that obsesses them, whether a perfect black turtleneck or the handiest nail clippers. The articles are integrated seamlessly into the editorial content of the site.

In short, a  regular reader of any these publications will find products that speak to their lifestyle and needs. Much like the either adored or maligned Gwynth Paltrow-affiliated site goop (which launched a print magazine this year), these publications understand they can expand their earnings by selling readers a lifestyle.

And the returns show promise. Since purchasing Wirecutter just over a year ago, The New York Times reported the site's revenue rose 18% in the third quarter of this year. 

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