‘Ecommerce in publishing’ report updated for 2022

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The latest report update from media news site What’s New In Publishing focuses on the extraordinary growth in publisher ecommerce sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Following a similar refresh for its ‘50 ways to make media pay’ report, journalism lecturer and media commentator Damian Radcliffe has brought ‘ecommerce in Publishing’ up to date for 2022.

  • When Radcliffe wrote his first trends report on ecommerce in publishing for WNIP, back in 2019, he says the efforts of most publishers felt ‘quite embryonic’. In stark contrast, for the introduction to his 2022 update he says, ‘ecommerce’s moment has come’.
  • Radcliffe writes that, in just two years, ‘scepticism, wariness and uncertainty’ over the potential for ecommerce has begun to wane and publishers have become increasingly interested in ‘content-led commerce’ and other ecommerce possibilities.
  • The change has two key drivers. The first has been the ongoing strategic shift in publishing for businesses to diversify their revenue mix. The other is a more dramatic change in consumer behaviors, with COVID-19 lockdowns fueling exponential growth in online shopping activity.
Ecommerce: Why now?
  • The first chapter of the 2022 ecommerce report – free to download from WNIP – considers the need for publishers to develop a revenue matrix to counter falls in more traditional publishing revenue streams.
  • The recent Reuters Predictions report placed ecommerce fifth on publishers’ revenue priority list. However, report author Nic Newman believed this year would see publishers ‘leaning into’ ecommerce along with subscriptions. He described them as:

Two future-facing business models that have been supercharged by the pandemic.

  • The importance of ecommerce revenues to publishers is underlined by another study that echoes the Reuter’s Institute’s findings. US data published by eMarketer suggests more than 30% of publishers saw ecommerce as their biggest source of revenue in Q1 2021, with more than 60% saying it would be in their top three revenues sources for the quarter.
Publishing’s ecommerce superpower
  • Optimism around publisher ecommerce rests on the idea that consumers are increasingly using content from trusted information brands to discover and research products online. This was supercharged by the rise in online shopping forced by the pandemic.
  • The 2021 eMarketer report on publisher ecommerce, based on data from DMP vendor Lotame, notes that publishers are using affiliate ecommerce strategies to position themselves as retailer or brand partners that can drive conversions. They added:

Marketers are recognizing publisher partnerships as valuable ways to shorten the funnel.

ecommerce strategies

As one of the most common entry points for publishers, earning commission from content-led conversions, affiliate revenue strategies warrant an entire chapter in the report. And Radcliffe points out, with the global affiliate market worth over $12 billion, it’s too big a market for publishers to ignore.

Beyond affiliate revenues, the report lists five alternative ecommerce mechanisms that are delivering for publishers. These include:

  • Online stores
  • Subscription boxes
  • Membership schemes
  • Retail partnerships
  • Online education

The final chapter in WNIP’s  ecommerce in Publishing 2022 report looks at  implementation and Radcliffe points to three things that publishers need to consider before moving into ecommerce.

Cultural and content fit – is ecommerce right for your brand and audience?

Application challenges – do you have the people to deliver?

Technology – are you prepared to change your strategy as prevailing ecommerce trends and technology change?

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