A new business model for media companies that actually works

Just last week one of our esteemed clients, InStyle.de, won the award for Best Business Model from European Publishing Awards.

InStyle has worked hard and smart on building an inspirational fashion shopping destination, with amazing visual content and a carefully curated selection of latest products. So it’s no wonder their Shop It! concept took home the award and has turned out to be a runaway hit.

In fact this model has been shown to outperform ad revenues and affiliate links, improve customer loyalty and generate troves of valuable consumer data that has never been available to publishers before.

But regardless of the success I’m often met with scepticism as well. In the wake of InStyle’s award I was once more reminded by this in conversation I had with a media executive: “It’s easy for InStyle to succeed with e-commerce because they produce content about fashion and lifestyle. E-commerce will not work for other types of media, and certainly not traditional news outlets.”

E-commerce is not limited to consumption or product related content alone. In fact you must think about e-commerce as a toolkit that can be adapted to any media context. It’s just a matter of curating the offer suitable for the audience.

How can any media business apply e-commerce

Pure e-commerce

The most common way is to start a full fledged shop on your platform. This is a strategy that any traffic platform can use because there is always a product you can sell, no matter who you are. Even the least commercial publication can sell branded merchandise. Others choose to build big webshops with several collections and lots of products. The success of this comes down to knowing your customers and selling products they will love.

Content commerce as an extension of your brand

Content commerce means you combine inspirational content and shoppable products together. This combination has worked well in the lifestyle and fashion categories, due to obvious fit between the nature of content and the target audience and their purpose for consuming the content.

But content commerce can work as a natural extension of your brand in other types of publishing as long as what you write about is something that you truly believe in.

E-commerce as a customer loyalty program

Many traditional news outlets use e-commerce as an incentive towards paying subscribers and they tend to reserve a separate outlet for these offers, and create distance between journalistic content and offers. Traffic from your entire site can of course be funnelled towards the shop, but

Embedded e-commerce as an alternative to affiliate links

Many digital platforms, mobile apps, and marketplaces list out products or create product reviews, but they rely on affiliate links to generate revenue. The fundamental challenge with that business model is that you lose your hard-earned traffic to make a penny. It would make much more sense turning your platform from a traffic funnel to a proper destination. This allows customers to buy the product directly on site, which generates more revenue but also offers a more streamlined user experience and produces consumer data that these platforms can use.

Bonus: Checkouts on social media platforms

As the media landscape changes fast, so is the traffic streams and shopping trends. We see a huge trend of many social media applications investing heavily in embedded e-commerce. Any company or individual with significant social media following will soon have the ability to generate e-commerce orders directly from social media platforms. Currently selling on social media is mostly limited to brands selling directly to consumers, but eventually when affiliate transactions are enabled on social media, it will become possible to monetize any digital audience.

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