Check it Out: Editorial Meets E-Commerce
With print advertising revenues drying up, magazine publishers are looking for new ways to make money. Their latest idea? Get involved in e-commerce.
A flurry of recent announcements reflects this growing trend: Time Out New York began selling event tickets through its website and mobile apps; Elle launched a shoppable trend guide on Facebook that encourages readers to make purchases on advertisers' websites; and Sharpmen.com launched this spring as the first online shopping magazine for men.
The intersection of content and commerce isn't a surprising development, however. Retailers have known for years the benefit that having relevant content (e.g., blog posts, product and how-to videos, customer reviews) on their site can have for their business, from improving organic search rankings to creating a better overall shopping experience. Retailers shouldn't worry about editorial integrity holding them back. Their job is to sell things and consumers know it.
Magazine publishers dabbling in some form of e-commerce aren't as fortunate, however. They must walk the tight rope of maintaining editorial integrity (i.e., the trust of their readers) while at the same time promoting their advertisers' products — for which they'll receive a percentage of the sales. It's a slippery slope for sure.
Magazines are positioning their e-commerce efforts as an added benefit to their readers. No longer do readers have to leave a publication's digital issue or website to search for products being written about. The magazine can be a conduit for a purchase or in some cases the merchant itself. For example, a reader of Elle that wants to purchase the latest makeup being written about doesn't have to search the web for it. A clickable link in the story will bring them right to it.
GQ Meets QVC
This is how Sharpmen.com bills itself. The recently launched online magazine takes the editorial meets e-commerce dynamic to a visual level. A members-only site, Sharpmen.com carefully curates brands from a wide range of categories: fashion, technology, gadgets, art, accessories, design, sports gear, entertainment, food, wine and more. Sharpmen.com has signed 120 brands to be featured on its site and YouTube channel. All brands' products are presented through videos and can be purchased with the click of a button.
As for the editorial on Sharpmen.com, the designers, artists and companies behind the various products promoted on the site supply the latest news and trends on what's happening in men's lifestyles. The online magazine has proven to be an outlet for some lesser-known retailers to spread the word about their brand and reach a targeted male demographic. Retail partners of Sharpmen.com include Charles Alexander Neckwear, a U.K.-based retailer of high-end neckties, and Menaji, a retailer of skincare products designed for men.
Is the melding of content and commerce anything more than the latest retail fad along the lines of pop-up shops, store-within-a-store designs, flash-sale sites and social commerce? For magazine publishers desperate for new revenue streams, it almost has to be for their survival. And I think it will.
The average consumer has become so jaded over time that editorial integrity is a thing of the past. If GQ can offer me entertaining content and at the same time sell me a pair of shoes that I need, that convenience trumps any concern I may have over collusion between the publisher and advertiser. And this is coming from a journalist. Imagine what folks not in my line of work think.