Publishers v. Ecommerce

I wasn’t at the PPA Conference on Wednesday (at my age there’s only so much high-intensity excitement that I can take), so it might be that this description of Future’s T3 site’s ecommerce strategy is incorrect. “Nial Ferguson, group publishing director at Future, says T3 magazine is building an affiliate advertising model to take advantage of its tech-hungry audience’s buying habits.”

This sounds to me like T3 is going to add links off to third-party sites in its reviews of products so after a description of a particular piece of kit, opportunities to buy that product are put in front of the reader, and Future will make a percentage of the sale.

Well, it’s sort of fine in its way and it’s probably better than doing nothing, but if this is the strategy then it leaves quite a lot to be desired. (For one thing, the percentage that Future will make will be tiny – 3% perhaps, may be 5% from a generous seller, and the click-throughs on this sort of activity are pretty puny.)

And it doesn’t solve the biggest problem of traditional publishers, and that’s the competition. I don’t mean T3‘s battle with Stuff, I mean the fact that ecommerce companies are now switched on to content. Publishers have always prided themselves on being in “the content business” and love to shout  “content is king”, as if that in itself means anything, but they’ve never really managed to get content to make money, except as a wrapper for adverts. Publishers ought to be very afraid of ecommerce companies moving into this territory.

Because, let’s face it, you can buy content. That’s what publishers do – we hire writers, photographers, designers and editors and they go off any produce stuff for us. But the barriers to entry aren’t that significant, and there’s a lot of talent out there. Basically, it’s significantly easier for an ecommerce firm – with its bigger budgets, its ready-made audience, its data on its customers – to get good at content than it is for a content firm to gain traction as an ecommerce business. ASOS magazine anyone?



  1. The thing is publishers provide the reviews and information for products, ecommerce delivers the sales. There is a buying cycle and reading the contents is the first stage, your trying to find out what the product is capable of . Once past this section, ecommerce websites are searched for by the user, and the best price or trustwothy site will win. Right?

  2. Real publishers of content (magazine houses) give the consumer the choice and difference in product. Unbiased content regarding a range of product. A TV manufacture might create content but its simply on their product or service – that’s not content but more a mission statement punted as content. Real publishers still hold the advantage of giving the consumer the choice (Gods best gift to human kind)

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