Retail and media converge; comtent emerges

Adam Sherman's article in the Publishing Partners Guide 2017

By Adam Sherman

Retail and media converge; comtent emerges

With the shift in consumer trends driving print sales and ad revenue down, it is no secret that publishers are looking for new ways to generate income. One response is to develop a retail (and in particular etail) offering to build on their brand equity and secure future revenues.

It seems to me that while advertising may not be bringing value to consumers, they are looking for more product information, not less. On one hand, the Internet Advertising Bureau UK says that at least 22% of adults use an ad blocker. But, according to Retailing Today, over 80% of consumers are researching online before making a purchase.

The possibility to put offers into the right context within editorial or selling extended editorial content such as books, DVDs or brand merchandise are two of many options publishers have to leverage their brands and content.

By bringing value to both readers and publishers, comtent (commerce-related content) is already a profitable source of revenue for publishers looking to exploit their brands. Daily Mail cruises are reported as having an annual revenue in excess of £5 million. Men’s Health have launched a range of vitamins endorsed by professional sportsmen and Time Inc. UK have recently launched Powder. And with 74% of women saying they want to buy items they have seen in a magazine or an app, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Cosmopolitan have introduced shoppable content.

However, eCommerce presents particular challenges as well as opportunities. Whether publishers are offering single product sales, branded merchandise or rewards from a loyalty programme, there is still a need to physically deliver these products. Publishers thus need to consider both domestic and international fulfilment and distribution solutions.

My experience working with eCommerce clients as well as publishing ones, has reassured me that the importance of having a trusted distribution partner cannot be overemphasised. Time and time again, I hear from new etail clients how late deliveries, careless product handling, poor returns management and limited parcel traceability from their previous suppliers have caused serious damage to their brand’s reputation. Of course, this reputation can be saved - something I have seen first-hand with our clients. But such damage does take a lot of time and investment to undo. Therefore, my one piece of advice for publishers branching out into the eCommerce market would be to invest time and careful attention in getting your logistics solutions right the first time round to avoid damage-limitation later.

As an industry, we are witnessing the early stages of retail and media convergence; a trend which, I believe, will continue to gather pace. As this new market matures, interesting and profitable opportunities to build on the heritage of your media brand are there for the taking. In terms of distribution, you have a partner in Air Business with the expertise to help you grasp these new opportunities.