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Opinion: Why ‘comtent’ is becoming a vital monetisation strategy for publishers

Alicia Navarro, CEO and co-founder of Skimlinks – the content monetisation platform used by more than 55,000 digital publishers – discusses the benefits of ‘comtent’ and the impact it will have on publisher business models.

  • What is ‘comtent’ and how does it fit into a publisher’s commerce strategy?

Comtent is commerce-related content. It can take the form of product reviews, listicles, get-the-look guides, photo galleries and more. It is content that is written by journalists and driven by editorial factors, so it differs from advertorial or sponsored content which is driven by advertisers. Comtent can be easily monetized via affiliate marketing, that earns publishers a commission if people buy the products they are writing about. As display advertising revenues dwindle, creating and monetizing comtent is one of the ways that publishers can reduce their reliance on traditional revenue streams and earn incremental income.

The other benefit of comtent is the indirect revenues it can drive. When users interact with comtent, they generate insights around the shopping preferences and behaviours of their audience, that publishers can use throughout their business. These insights can inspire future content creation, thus helping with audience development; they can generate leads for ad sales teams, as well as data on trends to help negotiate better rates; and they can generate audience data that can be used for better content and ad targeting.

  • How does this affect editorial teams?

Writing comtent is very similar to writing any other content.  Normal editors write the articles to help their audience research products, in the same way a travel piece helps plan a holiday, or a news piece catches you up on latest developments around the world. In some cases publishers hire additional members of the team to focus purely on creating comtent, though they still abide by the same quality standards and editorial voice.

Comtent does work with slightly different metrics. Traffic driven and social shares aren’t immediately important to benchmark the success of a piece of comtent. Instead e-commerce metrics matter more, for example RPM (revenue per thousand impressions) or revenue per click, to understand whether the piece is influencing behaviours. As an extension to other metrics of engagement – “likes” or “shares” – the number of sales that a piece of comtent drives is the ultimate proxy for engagement, as it measures whether users are literally putting their money where their mouth is. Many publishers will use conversion or sale metrics with commerce editors as a means of measuring influence and engagement with their content.

  • Is this marking the end of traditional advertising?

Not yet – there is still a role for creative display advertising, but the popularity of ad blockers and users’ increasing ad blindness means that publishers should not rely on this form of monetization exclusively. The optimal strategy is a mix of a number of advertising solutions that augment or at least don’t detract from the editorial substance of a publisher.  Comtent isn’t a solution on its own, but it should certainly be part of the mix.

  • What publishers have already adopted this strategy, and how has it affected their business model?

A huge variety of publishers have been utilising comtent, and as a result there are now publishers such as Refinery29 and Gizmodo, whose entire business is built around comtent and exclusively produce commerce-related content. More traditional publishers are also utilising this model. Last year, the New York Times acquired The Wirecutter for $30 million because its “service journalism” (a.k.a comtent) makes it hugely valuable and is a great foundation for The Times to utilise comtent as well. Right across the spectrum whether it’s Buzzfeed, Business Insider or MailOnline, publishers are embracing comtent and altering their approach to support it. They have dedicated commerce editors, creating comtent for dedicated commerce brands, that are helping to offset advertising losses and in some cases pay for regular editorial teams.