Publishers faced with declining advertising sales have sought other ways to monetize their audiences, such as by earning affiliate revenue from ecommerce. Gannett, which operates more than 250
newspapers, including USA Today
, in the past year and a half has doubled the staff of its Reviewed website to seize on that opportunity.
The product review site is similar to
Wirecutter, which The New York Times bought for a reported $30
million in 2016, and to BestReviews, which Nexstar Media acquired last year for $160 million. The sites earn a commission when a reader clicks on a link in a review and buys the product
Gannett’s revenue from Reviewed
has grown 50% a year for the past three years, said Chris Lloyd, the site’s general manager, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal
. Reviewed employs more than
80 people, including recently hired editors and writers who work at its product testing lab in Cambridge, Mass.
Ecommerce surged in the past year as people shopped online more
often while stuck at home during the pandemic. Growth had continued into the first quarter of this year, when ecommerce sales rose 39% to outpace the 17% gain for total retail sales including stores,
according to the Census Bureau. That growth
contrasts with the slump in ad
spending on newspapers for the comparable period, as measured by Standard Media Index.
Gannett wasn’t immune to the declines in print ad spending and digital competition
from search, social media and the ad networks run by retailers. The publisher’s first-quarter revenue declined 18% from a year earlier to $777 million, while the net loss attributable to Gannett
increased to $142.3 million $80.2 million for the comparable
In 2011, USA Today
, which consisted of 12 product-review sites, such as DigitalCameraInfo.com
. The sites sold advertising, but shifted to an affiliate
marketing model in 2017, the WSJ
reported. Reviewed’s earns a commission that ranges from 1% to 20%, depending on the product category.
doesn’t break sales figures for Reviewed, its recent revenue growth and expanded headcount indicate the publisher sees opportunities in e-commerce as the economy continues to recover
from the pandemic.