The New York Times’ Acquisition of The Wirecutter Signals Rise of Commerce in Publishing
By now, most of us have gotten wind of The New York Times’ recent acquisition of The Wirecutter. The online consumer guide is recognized for publishing in-depth product reviews and serving up independent editorial picks for consumer purchase, thereby earning affiliate commissions. The acquisition affirms the continued emergence of native commerce – the method of recommending targeted products and services that fit audience interests within editorial content – as a new and meaningful revenue stream for digital publishers. I believe it’s the first of many investments and acquisitions we'll begin to see large media companies make in commerce-enabling organizations.
The recent acquisition validates what many industry insiders have been vocalizing for some time now. The fact that ecommerce is evolving into a major investment theme for publishers, not only from a resources standpoint, but also from a high-level strategy perspective. How can we be sure? In recent months, we’ve seen a multitude of major publishers, from Vox Media to Buzzfeed, enlisting commerce editors and creating commerce organizations within their own companies.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of The New York Times’ acquisition of The Wirecutter is that the site is focused entirely on a content-driven approach to commerce. The Wirecutter isn’t a traditional affiliate commerce company, which are known for interruptive and often times incongruous display ads. Instead, The Wirecutter takes a unique, editorial approach to reviewing and curating what they believe to be the best products on the market, providing consumers with the means to purchase relevant products that they’re already inquiring about and engaging with. This is contrary to the methods used by many companies in the media space which focus on monetizing reviews with standard video and banner ads around the content.
As simple as it sounds, this method is quite an evolution from the past, especially given publishers’ previous mentality of separation of “church and state” with regard to editorial and monetization. The shifting media landscape has finally evolved to a place where commerce content can be presented to readers in a remarkably thorough, thoughtful way.
As we’re all abundantly aware, it’s more challenging than ever to monetize in the current digital landscape. Reaching audiences through banner ads is becoming less and less effective. Traditional display advertising is under pressure and ad-block usage has soared 40% year-over-year. We’re beginning to see publishers implement broader strategies, serving up native content that resonates with their audience, which includes product reviews and recommendations. Where banner ads will rarely improve a reader’s experience, content produced with a commerce angle can help readers understand the parameters of a product and identify precisely what product to purchase.
It’s clear that publishers can generate additional revenue by organically weaving relevant commerce into their readers’ daily experience. But how do publishers pioneer this new space and tap into this monetization channel? Some publishers choose to pursue the route of building a commerce team in-house, but the extreme cost and manpower required for sourcing, logistics, fulfillment, and customer service are often underestimated.
A low risk, low cost alternative is employing an integrated platform that strategically implements commerce content that fits the audience demographic and the site experience. The technology behind leading integrated platforms allows for minimal setup, quick turnaround, and little time commitment from in-house team members. And these types of systems are effective at driving revenue, increasing revenue 15% to 20% on average, and boosting engagement, driving 95 times more consumer engagement than display ads.
Forged at the intersection of curated content and branded commerce, The New York Times’ acquisition of The Wirecutter clearly validates commerce as a valuable revenue stream for publishers. The sale marks the first of many investments we'll begin to see large media companies make in commerce-enabling companies as the trend continues to embed itself into publishers' strategies.
Josh Payne is the Founder & CEO of StackCommerce, the web’s leading native commerce platform. With a network reach of over 500 million monthly visitors across more than 750+ publisher partners, the company provides turnkey solutions to monetize and engage online audiences through the seamless integration of content + commerce. These solutions include: full-service commerce shops, editorial, email, social, and in-feed product recommendations.