Can FMCG Save Media Publishing?

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It’s no secret that publishing revenues are in a bad way. Ad budgets are increasingly going online, and unfortunately for media titles, much of this digital spend isn’t heading their way but going into the pockets of Google and Facebook instead.

Publishers are more focused than ever on diversifying their revenue streams, particularly away from display advertising, and recent steps have included focusing on branded content and consumer revenue. A growing number of publishers are turning towards the ecommerce platform idea – actively selling items via their content.

Ecommerce success is driven largely by convenience – if you provide customers with a straightforward way to access the products they want, more often than not they’ll take you up on the offer. So, should publishers look to not just diversify as ecommerce platforms, but supercharge their offer by focusing on the ultimate convenience-driven purchase – FMCG?

Options Add Value

The Telegraph has already earned plaudits for adopting an ecommerce platform model which has seen significant revenue growth, particularly via its Travel section. With a constant pipeline of insightful travel content and a highly engaged audience, Telegraph Travel offers readers a range of options, from flights to full tour packages. As with any luxury product, most transactions are completed over the phone with the assistance of travel partners – but it still shows the power of infusing insightful content with extra value for readers.

FMCG brands spend more on advertising than any other sector, and could be said to be half immune to the digital dupolody. Consumer goods advertising doesn’t rely as heavily on Google as other brands do, and while the sector still spends big on Facebook, many brands would undoubtedly move to publishers if offered a better advertising experience.

It’s not hard to see why the arrangement would appeal to both sides. By becoming platforms in their own right, or at least partnering with established platforms trusted to produce editorially-led, insightful content, FMCG brands get a far bigger role in a purchase journey normally controlled by retailers.

Buy-it-now tech has typically been applied to digital ads, transforming them into useful, accountable, checkouts, but it can be implemented into any online content, whether that’s recipe guides or even video. Brands normally opt for digital ads first because they query just how many consumers are coming to their website to digest content – maintaining a high audience share hinges on delivering a constant pipeline of interesting, engaging content, and this often involves more investment on the brand’s side. But by partnering with media titles, with their existing highly engaged audience, offers a fresh marketplace for brands.

Providing customers with the option to buy directly from content closes the purchasing loop – a reader digests an article advising them on top summer BBQ recipes, and is then presented with the option to purchase everything they need to throw a garden get together that weekend.

Treading the editorial tightrope

Of course, brands must also understand that there’s a delicate balance at play. Publishers need to maintain their independence, and can’t be seen as a commercialised copywriting shop, available to whichever brand is bidding highest that week. Editorial standards must be preserved – any platform’s engaged audience (and journalist staff) would desert a title churning out solely pay-to-play content. But by providing the same independent, informative content they always have done, matched with the convenient option to purchase, publishers can open new revenue streams, as well as offering their readers added value on the engaging content already being produced.

Both the publishing and FMCG sectors need to get more adventurous when it comes to digital experiences, particularly when considering new ways of native advertising and shoppable content. After all, what’s more influential – a banner advert or an engaging piece of content? If publishers are willing to work with brands, we could see a new, post-duopoly era, where a title’s ecommerce platform isn’t just a helpful revenue booster, but a successful, sustainable business in its own right.

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