Here’s Why eCommerce Should And Can Account For 10% of Every Publisher’s Revenue

This article is cross-posted from Adrants where it was originally posted by Steven Hall. Guest author, Josh Jaffe, is the VP of Business Development here at VigLink.

Conde Nast’s recent announcement to merge Lucky Magazine with BeachMint, an online retailer, follows the relaunch of Domino Magazine, another Conde property, as an e-commerce store. The New York media giant isn’t the only one blurring the line between content and commerce. Meredith, Thrillist and Gawker are other prominent publishers investing considerable resources in commerce.

Despite these initiatives, commerce-based revenue remains a largely untapped growth opportunity for digital media companies. Display, native and video are the primary drivers of online publishing revenue. Yet, commerce holds the potential to generate a revenue boost of at least 10% with limited investment.

E-Commerce

Fashion bloggers have been at the forefront of the move to incorporate commerce as a meaningful line of revenue. These writers leverage their influence to drive loyal readers from their site to buy a product from an online retailer they have a commission agreement with. They’ve recently expanded to capture purchase intent on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and even YouTube.

Via its acquisition of ShopNation in 2012, Meredith is experimenting with on-site purchase as a means of driving commerce-based revenue. Men’s style publisher, Thrillist, earns most of its revenue from its JackThreads unit, the online retailer it purchased in 2010. Most publishers, though, don’t need to initiate their move into commerce by selling products direct to consumers. Gawker committed to commerce accounting for 10% of their total revenue in 2012 and achieved it last year without selling goods directly from its sites.

To start reaping commerce-based revenue, content must be created with purchase in mind. This is a natural fit for vertically oriented publishers. A technology site promotes deals at an online retailer. An outdoors publisher creates a product guide for camping or skiing. Broader media sites covering news or entertainment can also capture reader purchase intent by featuring travel deals, digital goods or style guides. Stories can be created by existing writers, non-editorial staff or a content agency trained to link story product references to online retailers.

Creating content with the intention of sending readers off-site to an online retailer may seem antithetical to product gurus charged with increasing site engagement. But, creating content that readers find useful and in tune with the brands and products they love actually boosts user loyalty and return visits.

The benefits are clear. The new found revenue is completely additive to the current revenue mix of display, native and video. It is less subject to economic downturns as advertisers are more willing to maintain budgets when spend is tied directly to revenue. And commerce-based revenue generates a predictable return on investment because revenue levers up in direct relation to the amount of content created and the audience pushed to that content.

While publishers keep mobile, social, programmatic and native top of mind, adding commerce as a core editorial and monetization strategy can yield an entirely new, meaningful line of revenue in 2015.

Written by Josh Jaffe, VP of Business Development at VigLink

Make It All About the Treats This Halloween

 

Halloween

The night of fright is a just a ghoulish 14 days away when the clock strikes dead on midnight tonight… Don’t miss out on this frighteningly good opportunity to write your halloween spook-tactual blog post. Even those from the other-side need to guided on what treats (and tricks) are this Halloween’s must buys! For all some ghoulishly good inspiration, latest offers, and commission increases remember to check our Merchant Explorer tool and our Insider blog.

 

Forum Monetization with VigLink

We built VigLink on the idea that site owners should be compensated for the hard work they put in starting, maintaining and growing their sites. Forum owners are no exception and that’s exactly why we’ve decided to address the unique aspects of forum monetization with VigLink. In this post, we’ll outline how VigLink monetization works for forums and some best practices for maximizing earnings.

Links posted on a forum can have significant earning potential – even if they’re posted by users. But turning potential earnings into actual money in the bank can be more trouble than it’s worth. That’s where VigLink comes in. VigLink technology works in two ways. First, we convert existing links into links that can make money. Your community members are constantly posting links to brands, products and sites they know and love. We make it easy to capture the value of these links. Most retailers are actually willing to pay for clicks to their site that turn into purchases. We automatically wire up your clicks to participate in these programs. Second, our advanced technology can automatically link references to products in forum posts. Often, forum members may simply forget or not go to the trouble of adding a link. VigLink conveniently adds the link so users don’t have to hunt for the product and you get credit for the click. To make this work well, VigLink has established relationships with over 30,000 merchants, more than any other link monetization service. Just about any link that can earn money will earn money.

Of course, as with any monetization strategy, there are some best practices that are worth keeping top-of-mind in order to help you take your earnings to the next level. Here are four simple ideas you can put into practice today:


  1. Log in to your VigLink dashboard often to monitor what content is converting the best within your forum. If, for example, digital cameras are converting well, expand upon that content by creating new threads about digital cameras and encouraging people to post about their favorite one. If a particular camera retailer is performing well for you, expand upon that retailer. The VigLink Dashboard is your roadmap to revenue.
  2. Create threads that are retail-oriented and encourage members to post links. “Great deals” and “show and tell” threads prompt members to link out to products. Try starting a thread called “Great eBay Finds” and see the links enumerate. Using specific, meaningful product topics never hurts either. Starting a thread called “Best Speakers under $1,000” prompts users to reference products specifically. Then, post a link to that particular thread to other forums, including competitive ones.
  3. See a particular member who posts a lot of links? Consider reaching out to them directly with encouragement. You could promote them to moderator or even consider a rev-share as a reward.
  4. Make sure the conversation keeps going. Threads will stall unless you or your moderators keep them going. Ask another question or share something new to foster the continuation of product-related conversation.


There’s a reason VigLink is chosen by top forums – our solution is easy to implement, is maintenance-free, and perhaps most importantly, has virtually no impact on the community’s experience. Rather than bombarding your users with pesky, irrelevant banner ads, VigLink integrates seamlessly into posted content, so the conversation members came to enjoy is not compromised for the sake of trying to make a buck. VigLink is not a pop-up ad company; our technology doesn’t pretend to link words only to open up an irrelevant ad as the user inadvertently hovers over a double underline. We take a totally different approach – one that’s far more natural and organic.

We encourage you to sign up and find the tactics that work best for your forum by testing some of these ideas. Let us know if you have any questions or feedback – we’re always just an email away at support@viglink.com.

Whitney Smith, VigLink Marketing Communications Manager

What Does UX Have to do with Monetization?

Last week, Mashable posted a video interview with Jesse James Garrett, author of The Elements of User Experience, and a pioneer in the space as it applies to the web.

Garrett points to a trend among technology companies in which they are now starting to invest heavily in developing and improving user experience (UX).  As he sees it, companies have shifted from taking a narrow, tactical approach with graphic designers (buttons, menus, and fonts) to evaluating the entire picture of what makes a truly beautiful experience. Where UX was once a check box on the long list of tasks to complete a project, it has now evolved into an essential part of product strategy, and, for some businesses, a key driver of success.

When working with publishers, we often find them struggling to balance user experience with monetization. Distracting, irrelevant display ads could actually turn readers away, undermining the entire business. Yet monetization doesn’t have to compromise user experience. There is no foregone trade-off between readers and revenue. For example, limiting the number of ad placements while holding them to a strict measure of relevance and quality can help retain readers and maximize ad engagement.  Of course, VigLink is a tasteful solution to monetization that respects user experience. By affiliating links within your content, VigLink doesn’t rely on the traditional tricks of distraction or interruption. By integrating a monetization solution into actual content (vs the white space around content) publishers can avoid the pitfalls of banner blindness, enhance the user experience, and still earn revenue.

For some, user experience is at the heart of how they run their company. For others, it’s a philosophy that drives the smaller, tactical decisions (such as monetization). Garrett’s interview got us thinking about how we incorporate user experience into our business. As you think about the same for your business, consider the old Google mantra – “focus on the user, and all else will follow.”

Whitney, VigLink Marketing Communications Manager

ForumCon: The Good Stuff

A few weeks ago, we posted the slides from the opening statements made by our CEO Oliver Roup at ForumCon. Today, we’re excited to share with you a few videos taken of actual ForumCon panels and speakers.  Some great points were brought up surrounding several topics, so go ahead and check them out!

 

Verticalized Social Networks: Online Influencers that Savvy Marketers Covet

Speaker: Dan Gill, Founder & CEO of Huddler

 

How to Create, Curate & Put Great Content to Use

Speaker: Tyler Tanaka, VP of Development for PostRelease

 

More to come in the next few days!

Can Content Monetization Deliver a Better Website Experience?

Below is an excerpt from a guest feature by Oliver Roup, VigLink founder & CEO, on 5 Star Affiliate Programs Blog. You can check out the article in its entirety here.

Website publishers feel like they face a difficult trade-off: cater to their readers or cater to their revenue.  But, as any publisher or affiliate marketer knows, it’s a false trade-off.  The two are intimately related. Without strong readership and traffic, monetization is an impossibility. Without monetization, a site is tough to sustain.

So, how can you earn revenue without scaring off your readers? Or, better yet, how can you earn revenue while actually enhancing your readers’ experience on your site?

Publishers that don’t think through these questions may find themselves adopting a rather crude monetization strategy, plastering banners on every spare inch of their pages, or implementing the dreaded paywall. And while there is certainly a time and a place for both banner ads and paywalls, both overlook what should be a critical component of a site’s monetization strategy: the content.

Content is where your readers dedicate the majority of their time and attention on your site.  Why not leverage it?  By doing so, you’ll secure an important additional revenue stream for your site that is both unobtrusive and user-friendly.

Read on for  an overview of 3 of the best ways to get started monetizing your site’s content.

A Recap of LinkShare Symposium West

This post is a short recap by Erin Mead, Affiliate Manager at VigLink, of LinkShare Symposium West. 

Last week I had the pleasure of heading out to San Francisco for LinkShare Symposium West — the event is hosted by LinkShare as a way to bring the organization’s merchants, publishers, agencies and team together.  Not only was it a great opportunity to skip out on the chilly Chicago weather for a few days, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, these types of events are a great opportunity to stay connected with our top merchants and strengthen relationships with new ones.  I was also able to meet with our LinkShare account manager in-person for the first time.  It is amazing how a face-to-face meeting really helps build the relationship.

Though the event is just a couple of days, it is packed with great sessions and amazing keynote speakers.  Not to mention a multitude of meetings!  I’m excited about what the coming months hold with each of the merchants I sat down with and finding innovative ways to grow our partnership with each.

The event wound-down with a cocktail hour at The Tonga Room. It was my first time at the venue and I really enjoyed it.  I will definitely be telling my friends to stop by for a drink the next time they are in town!

All together it was a great week! I’m already looking forward to next time –

Erin Mead | Affiliate Manager | VigLink

Publisher Spotlight: Audizine

About Audizine

Audizine was founded a decade ago by Anthony Marino, a graphic artist and avid car enthusiast.  He started the website as a place where he and his close knit group of friends could discuss all things automotive, namely their passion for Audi. 

The site steadily grew and several years ago Anthony decided to focus full-time on building the auto-enthusiast community he started as a hobby.  Today, the site boasts a comprehensive editorial section, photo gallery, video gallery and classifieds section, in addition to the forum component which was the initial draw. 

The site also sees a sizable amount of traffic each month.  Audizine has over 77,000 community members, and nearly 1 million readers visit the site each month, collectively viewing over 5.5 million pages

Anthony driving a rare Audi Sport Quattro (courtesy Audi of America)

 

The Challenge: Keeping the Focus on Readers

Anthony initially turned to Google AdSense banners and market-related sponsors to cover the costs of the site, but he chose to remain cautious when it came to other monetization methods.

“My number one responsibility is to the experience and safety of our members,” said Anthony. “While I do have costs to cover, I don’t want advertisements to impede on a reader’s ability to use the site effectively. Early on I made it a point to keep the site design clean and muted. I wanted the content to shine, and certainly not be filled with advertisements. I also went into it with the mindset that I didn’t need to be the biggest Audi-enthusiast site, but I did want to be the best.”

In regards to Google AdSense, that meant keeping ads below the site fold.  And in the case of his direct relationships with advertisers, Anthony was careful to check each one out himself to verify a fit for his readers before accepting them onto the site. 

Beyond AdSense and banner ads, Anthony is very careful about other monetization methods. 

The Solution: Unobtrusive Content Monetization

In late 2010, Anthony found VigLink. The solution’s seamless integration with content was appealing, but he was unsure how much revenue it would actually generate for his site.  Because the solution appeared to be so unobtrusive, he decided to sign up and test the solution.

“The VigLink implementation was probably one of the most seamless ones we’ve had,” said Anthony. “And once VigLink was live on the site, I was extremely surprised by the amount of revenue that was coming in, particularly from something that is basically invisible. It’s the proverbial win-win!”

The VigLink service automatically affiliates outbound links to merchants and advertisers on the Audizine site, and also weaves new links into the content when it detects references to products.  When a reader clicks on a link in the site’s content that goes to a qualified online merchant, VigLink ensures the site receives a payment or commission on the resulting sale, easily and automatically.

Today, VigLink comprises around 15% of Audizine’s monthly income.  VigLink helps Anthony to continue focusing on what matters most to him: keeping Audizine a free-to-use and easy-to-navigate website with great content. 

[Jan Blog Club Meetup] How to Increase your Email Subscriptions

Happy New Year bloggers — we are looking forward to our first meetup of 2012 for the San Francisco Blog Club!  This month Lydia Sugarman, President of Venntive, will be discussing how bloggers can grow and monetize their email subscription list.

As always, there will be free drinks, pizza — and lots of time for networking and sharing tips.

The Details

When | January 17, 2012 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Where | VigLink SF Offices in SOMA

Here’s a little bit about Lydia, our speaker for the evening…

Lydia Sugarman is president at Venntive, a groundbreaking, comprehensive customer engagement platform that is replacing the traditional model of multiple applications that require integration for a complete overview.

Ms. Sugarman, an experienced sales and marketing professional, has been helping clients from start-ups to Fortune 10 financial services companies to build awareness in the online space for more than fifteen years. Prior to that she marketed and sold syndicated television programming, negotiated IP rights internationally, produced art exhibits in Moscow and New York, and worked as a producer and 1st assistant director in independent films and music videos.   Offline, she avidly pursues cycling, swimming, hiking, reading history, great food, and great wine.

Register here, space will be limited!

Publisher Spotlight: Bestofmedia (Tom’s Hardware & Tom’s Guide)

About Bestofmedia & Tom’s Guide

Bestofmedia’s portfolio of sites feature some of the biggest and best names in publishing, including Tom’s Hardware and Tom’s Guide.

The organization is the fourth largest tech publisher in the United States and has a team of over 80 full-time editors. The family of sites receives more than 10 million unique monthly visitors in the United States (38 million worldwide) and 177 million monthly page views (472 million worldwide).

Each of the sites cater to a different technology enthusiast. Tom’s Hardware focuses on computer hardware and components, while Tom’s Guide focuses on consumer electronics.

The Challenge: Selecting the Right Partners

“I get emails every day from prospective monetization partners,” said François Hutter, Director of Advertising Solutions & Partnerships at Bestofmedia.  “But, what some might not realize is how careful we need to be when evaluating partnerships.”

The process of selecting a monetization partner requires not only a thorough review of the solution by the organization’s product team, but also careful consideration of the Bestofmedia audience.

“We are fortunate in that our audience is fairly sophisticated when it comes to online business, and they understand the need to monetize,” said François. “However, they are also quick to notice changes and will voice their concern if there is a monetization method they don’t like.”

As a result, François is diligent when selecting new monetization partners to ensure partners generate revenue and don’t negatively impact traffic.

The Solution: A Partnership that Scales

In 2009 Bestofmedia found VigLink: a partner that would introduce a new revenue stream for the Company by automatically and seamlessly monetizing the sites’ outbound links to products, services and merchants. The straight forward installation (adding a code snippet to the footer of their site), allowed the product team to easily measure whether VigLink was positively impacting the site’s RPM (a calculation of revenue per page), without negatively impacting traffic.

“After activating VigLink, we immediately saw an increase in RPM,” said François. “And VigLink is so unobtrusive that there was no impact on user experience.  It’s great that VigLink doesn’t replace anything we are currently doing for website monetization– the revenue the service generates is purely incremental.”

But the most critical benefit, according to François, comes from the relationships VigLink maintains on behalf of Bestofmedia.

“It’s difficult and time consuming to build relationships with great merchants and advertisers,” said François. “VigLink does this on our behalf — and we benefit from their scale and ability to secure higher commissions than we could earn by ourselves.”