Why You Need Commerce Content… Now!

Online shopping / ecommerce and retail sale concept : White basket for checkout, shopping cart symbol on a laptop keyboard, depicts customers order / buy things from retailer sites using the internet

They say the only constant is change and for publishers, nothing has rung truer over the past several years.

From privacy regulations to the sunsetting of the cookie, publishers (and advertisers, for that matter!) today face a universe that is constantly in flux.

That’s why it’s more important than ever for publishers to understand how content partnerships can help them and advertisers reach a whole new audience.

But before diving into why commerce content is an obvious solution to many a woe of the modern-day publisher, we must first understand why the tide has turned downward for traditional advertising. 

We can narrow it down to four key reasons: 

1. Publisher revenue is declining
Mustafa Mirreh, Creative Account Manager at 72Point told Inside Performance Marketing: “Digital publishers experienced decline in ad revenue prior to pandemic.”

Despite website traffic increasing for publishers, revenue has been on the decline, with programmatic and direct-sold ads suffering the greatest impact.

2. CPMs are falling
Once a cornerstone of the industry, doubt is being shed on the accuracy of CPMs to predict ROI. Many advertisers are looking to move away from this buying type especially as they cut and/or pause ad spend. 

In turn, many publishers have been forced to either pull out inventory from programmatic auctions or even remove advertising altogether to maintain a steady value of cost-per-mille (CPMs). 

As senior media editor, Tim Peterson, reported in Digiday, said: 

“They are taking inventory off the table in hopes that the short-term revenue hit will protect their ad prices and help their businesses in the long run by not baking in price cuts that are hard to claw back.

3. Distance between advertisers and publishing is increasing
The rise of programmatic has seen a large percentage of advertising revenue being absorbed by the intermediaries that stand between the advertiser and publisher. This is dissolving the bottom line, especially for publishers who use advertising revenue as a main channel.

4. The Google/Facebook duopoly isn’t going anywhere
Immense amount of revenue is still going to the walled-garden duopoly, and even the biggest of publishers look small compared to these two media giants. 

Indeed, the plight of the modern publisher is no small feat. So how can content partnerships solve these challenges? 

Content partnerships are a viable solution to overcome these hurdles, one that offers a unique set of benefits for advertisers as well as publishers. As impact.com reminds us: “The idea itself is not new, but there are a few critical trends that point to the need for publishers to double down efforts in content partnerships.”

With more people working from home and consuming immense amounts of content, traffic numbers are increasing with better audience insights. This offers an opportunity for both publishers and advertisers to capitalise on an increasingly engaged audience by meeting them with smart, relevant content.

In addition, a direct partnership with an advertiser opens the door for publishers to obtain greater audience insights by placing a conversion pixel on the advertiser’s website – something which is generally not allowed with CPM-based campaigns.

This is especially important as consumer spending habits are changing; an increase in conversions has come hand in hand with the increase in readership. In fact, IBISWorld cited an 8.9% growth of the Australian online shopping market in 2022, now worth $47.9 billion dollars.

In good news for publishers, consumers in the research phase will often land on listicles or content with in-depth reviews before converting, so publishers can be confident that strong native content for goods and services will drive campaign success. Compared to traditional advertising, this encourages far more longevity at a more efficient CPA. As impact.com puts it, once-and-done content is a thing of the past

“A well-written and well-liked piece of content in a content partnership is the gift that keeps on giving, which means the publisher can keep earning when it continues to drive purchases.”

And as direct deals with brands cut out middlemen, content partnerships mean advertisers and publishers can have an honest conversation and agree on mutually beneficial KPIs beyond the conventions of programmatic technologies. Both parties can agree on their ideal success metrics such as CPCs or CPAs that are more closely aligned with their goals than CPMs, and share data without the long chain of adtech middlemen slicing into revenue. 

Finally, let’s face the facts (and numbers): commerce content as a revenue channel for publishers gets results. Commerce content – split across “ecommerce” and “affiliate advertising” – is consistently ranked in the top three revenue sources for more than a third of US publishers. 

Source: Lotame, “Beyond the Cookie: The Future of Advertising for Marketers & Publishers,” Feb 17, 2021 eMarketer | Insiderintelligence.com

The big question… how do you get content partnerships to work for you?

Finding the right type of content partnership is the first step to campaign success, so understanding the content partnership ecosystem is pivotal. 

The key players (and their role in content partnerships)

  • Advertisers (brand/enterprise) aims to drive awareness and purchase intent higher up in the funnel through the affiliate/partnership channel.
  • Agencies might act as the middleman between brands and publisher/media houses.
  • Publishers websites or apps that have amassed a following of readers from the content that they produce. Commerce content has traditionally been a minor revenue stream for publishers, but over the past two years it has received greater recognition for the opportunities it offers, and as a result publishers have increased their investment into it. 

Two main teams are involved in commerce content on the publisher side: editors who are directly responsible for the content that is produced, and the commercial team who are responsible for forging the commercial partnerships with brands.

The partnerships

While there are a number of different types of content partnerships for publishers, the most common is commerce content, which in itself takes a variety of forms.

impact.com defines commerce content broadly as:

“When a publisher can use audience and trend data to inform their editorial team on what pieces of content to write based on changing social events, trends, media, and beyond. 

“From there, the publisher can surface the most competitive deals they can find to include in their articles.”

Traditional commerce content is a piece of content created with the audience’s interests in mind as the primary objective, such as brand reviews, lists of products, and buyer’s guides. For example, a listicle by Buzzfeed outlines 27 beauty products that Buzzfeed editors have suggested their readers try, which is completely unpaid by brands. As the article specifies: “all of these products are independently selected by our editors.”

Monetisation does not dictate the content, rather, as a secondary action, publisher’s can reach out to brands and advertisers mentioned in the content for commission agreements based on conversions associated with affiliate links. Advertisers  stand to gain awareness and conversions from the partnership, and in the long term, they benefit by getting to build direct relationships with the publisher. These conversion points can occur anywhere along the purchase funnel. For example:

  • Listicles (awareness)
  • How-tos (education)
  • Comparison articles (consideration)
  • Reviews (validation)

Many publishers also have designated sections that showcase products; a partnership with brands which can enhance the shopping experience for consumers. For example, CNN below:

While these are not necessarily paid advertisements, again they are often editor’s choices, there is opportunity for brands and advertisers looking to promote their goods and services in a purposeful, relevant way to reach out to publishers directly (or vice versa) if they notice high conversion rates on products. As impact.com describes, brands “work with publishers because they know the publisher is providing solid content that will organically push consumers toward their brand.”

Readers can click on the product and be directed to the brand’s webpage where they can convert. Alternatively, publishers may also offer publisher-exclusive promo codes.

Readers can click on the product and be directed to the brand’s webpage where they can convert. Alternatively, publishers may also offer publisher-exclusive promo codes.

How should you go about developing a commerce content partnership?

Ultimately, the goal for publishers should be to monetise their existing audience and the goal for brands should be to leverage a publisher’s audience.

First off, you need the right tools. Looking to a partnerships platform can be the key to turning your plans into something scalable, efficient and profitable. 

With a centralised platform, publishers and brands can leverage partnerships technology and garner some serious, revenue-generating results.

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