Growing Reader Revenue Series – eCommerce

10 July 2019


The second topic within our Reader Revenue Series focuses on how leading publishers are utilising their existing content and relevant audiences to create eCommerce revenue streams. Publishers are using a number of strategies to introduce eCommerce solutions into their business models including affiliate and referral strategies, product development to full in-house built solutions and products that they now sell.

Affiliate, Commission & Referral Fees

One tactic publishers are using to diversify revenues is by partnering with relevant businesses to generate affiliate and referral based revenue.
For example, Buzzfeed and Meredith are carefully crafting articles such as “The 10 Must-Have X” and “The 10 Best X That You Need Right Now” that have retail opportunities within the articles to add additional revenue streams via affiliate links. They do this by driving traffic to consumer branded articles which ultimately launch out to partners websites such as Amazon which BuzzFeed then receive a cut of the sale.[1] This is a clever and pretty simple tactic as they are disguised as any other lifestyle article on the site, therefore, the audience is unaware of the affiliate commerce aspect.

Product Development

Taking this one step further, publishers such as Hearst who own Men’s Health have created entirely new spin-off products, such as their supplement and food business which they promote via their mag. [2] Good Housekeeping have done something similar by launching a houseware business brand leaning on their magazine and web content. These products and services perfectly appeal to their already engaged target audience who have a high propensity to buy these types of products whilst already having the perfect trusted platform to promote them on.
Large publishers such as the New York Times and Washington Post have also developed solutions to diversify their revenue by leveraging their audiences. The NYT purchased Wirecutter – the product review website for $30m. This allowed the NYT to target verticals easily such as tech, food, fashion, etc with the infrastructure already in place. [3] The Washington Post created an entire B2B business with its ARC CMS platform that they are reskinning and selling to publishers.
You can see plenty more examples on our Reader Revenues webinar here.

End-to-end sales

A great example of how a publisher has truly harnessed their brand and audience by creating a relevant business is successful consumer magazine – Dennis Publishing. This consumer brand that owns, The Week, Auto Express and CarBuyer moved from the typical affiliate link, e-commerce strategy to…selling cars.
The publisher purchased in an attempt to diversify revenues which have proved to be a huge success. When Dennis launched these services in 2015 they made $400k in revenue which increased to $80m in 2018, the CEO has targeted $120 million as a target for this year. Dennis is first and foremost a publisher however, the car selling section now accounts for 40% of all revenue. [4] A great success story in diversifying revenues by utilising your audience!

This is a clip of our Reader Revenue Beyond Content webinar where Ben Edwards, our Business Development Director discussed how publishers are utilising eCommerce to diversify revenue.
You can see more ways to diversify reader revenues beyond content by watching the full version of our recent webinar…