The Exciting Uncertainty At The Intersection Of Content And Commerce

Editor’s note: Mike Jones is CEO of Science, Inc., a Los Angeles-based technology studio; he has no connection to the companies mentioned herein. Follow him on Twitter @mjones.

Gawker Media made headlines recently when founder Nick Denton offered his full-throated support of sponsored posts and “commerce journalism” and said he expected 10 percent of the company’s 2013 revenues to come from e-commerce activities.

Content and commerce have always had a symbiotic relationship that many traditional content providers tried to separate. The wall between editorial and business, otherwise known as the separation of church and state, is and always has contained back doors and windows in which compromises are made.

The slow adoption of all that the digital revolution has to offer – curation, aggregation, social, and automation – has also hobbled many traditional content providers. Depressed revenues, layoffs and shrinking bully pulpits are the results of an industry that doesn’t quite know how to monetize content beyond selling advertising space. Today’s successful digital companies know to blend content and commerce so that the content is compelling and, frankly, still sells stuff.

The content email makes for a fascinating read while simultaneously seducing me into wanting to open up my wallet. is a prime example of this melding of commerce with content. It is one of the fastest-growing sites because, in part, it is one of the most interesting content emails that subscribers receive daily. Its mix of absurd, colorful, interesting, expensive and affordable products in their signature checkerboard design provides as much content experience as an or and yet it is essentially a featured sales list. The content email makes for a fascinating read while simultaneously seducing me into wanting to open up my wallet.

This mixture of content and commerce is driving a wave of editorial shopping and curation that is rewarding its forward-thinking managers with viral growth and revenue. Men’s lifestyle site just announced that 45 percent of its $40 million a year earnings comes from the iPhone app for its e-commerce site JackThreads.

In the next five years, I see the intersection of commerce and content as follows:

Traditional content outlets, including magazines and newspapers, will find their way onto social media including Facebook, Youtube and Pinterest and build meaningful businesses within other companies’ platforms rather than just relying on their own digital destinations.
personal brandsEditorial staff, from editors to reporters, will start out-shining their respective publication brands and will rise as tastemakers. As brands themselves, they will have the ability to generate revenue beyond their content generation.
Commerce will become embedded within content to such a degree that commerce will be seen as content. and are precursors of this seamless merge of content and commerce.

It’s unquestionably an exciting, albeit uncertain, time for those in the content business. The brouhaha over the Atlantic and the Scientology advertorial is an example of the need for content and commerce to meld seamlessly so that trust and credibility are maintained.

As we see rapid growth in the number of people purchasing items online – an estimated 80 percent of Americans last year – content businesses will need to go deeper into monetization through commerce opportunities or be ready to issue more pink slips and close up shop.

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