November 8, 2016 Last Updated 11:04 am

What The New York Times’ acquisition of The Wirecutter means for digital monetization

Guest column: Josh Payne, the founder & CEO of StackCommerce, says commerce is evolving into a major investment theme for publishers

If The New York Times’ recent acquisition of The Wirecutter for a cool $30 million is symbolic of anything, it’s the future of digital monetization. The gadget gurus and product pundits behind the online consumer guide have spent the past five years writing borderline-obsessive product reviews with much success. Unlike traditional display advertising, which is proving to be less and less effective, The Wirecutter focuses entirely on affiliate commerce content. The site takes a uniquely editorial approach to reviewing and curating what they deem to be the very best products on the market.

wirecutter-flagThe sale confirms that advertisers and brands are seeking out new opportunities to reach audiences in today’s increasingly saturated market. With click through rates on display ads less than 0.1 percent on average, publishers are looking to Native Commerce for fresh, incremental ways to generate revenue. Unlike a traditional ad, Native Commerce allows publishers to seamlessly integrate relevant products into daily content.

The recent acquisition validates what industry insiders have been vocal about for some time now. The fact that commerce is evolving into a major investment theme for publishers, not only from a resources standpoint, but from a high-level strategy perspective. Point in case: In recent months we’ve seen a number of major publishers, from Business Insider to Buzzfeed, create commerce organizations within their companies and hire Commerce Editors to lead the charge.

So what exactly is a “Commerce Editor,” you ask? In the simplest terms, it’s someone responsible for working lockstep with editorial teams to write and optimize commerce content. Interestingly enough, the term didn’t exist a few years ago. And yet, today we’re seeing a surging number of digital publishers, from Gawker and Vox Media, enlist the help of Commerce Editors in the efforts to merge editorial content with commerce.

The shift isn’t merely taking place at new media companies, either. Older, traditional media companies are seeking out opportunities to reach audiences in entirely new ways. The New York Times is a perfect example. As one of the leaders in the space, and a bellwether for trends, their current acquisition of The Wirecutter is a clear indicator that commerce is becoming a valuable revenue stream.

josh-payne-stackcommerce-290The truth is, the space is shifting rapidly and if publishers fail to evolve and invest in the medium, chances are they won’t be able to compete. It’s imperative that media companies remain nimble and embrace the emergence of commerce as a meaningful revenue source. The New York Times’ recent acquisition of The Wirecutter is just the first of many investments we’ll begin see large media companies make in commerce-enabling companies as the trend continues to embed itself into publisher’s strategies.

Josh Payne is the Founder & CEO of StackCommerce, a native commerce platform. Prior to founding StackCommerce, Josh oversaw business development and strategic partnerships for several leading Internet and technology pioneers including Yahoo!, Meebo (acquired by Google), and Intel.

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