Do Publishers and E-Commerce Go Together Like Twizzlers and Guacamole?

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There’s no question that publishing is in a state of disruption. As advertisers continue to shift dollars from print to performance-based digital channels, publishers are struggling to find new ways to make money in the digital era.

For a time, many publishers believed the emergence of the tablet to be their saving grace. Some expected print ad dollars to shift seamlessly to tablet  in a similar model, but that hasn’t happened – and tablet use is not growing at the same rate as smaller mobile devices. A recent article published on Digiday, the author argues that “the tablet magazine was flawed from the start… conceived based on what publishers wanted and not on what consumers wanted.”

Because old ad models do not translate well to the digital space, publishers are left scrambling to find new sources of revenue, and many are in trouble. However, the emergence of content marketing has provided a glimmer of hope and new revenue opportunities.

Today Digiday published an article about publishers who blend e-commerce with content, which presents a new source of revenue, but it’s one that has caused some unrest amongst readers. Earlier this month, the Washington Post inserted “buy now” buttons into articles that mentioned products, linking directly to purchase pages on Amazon. After claiming the buttons’ insertion into articles was a mistake, the Washington Post removed them.

While certain publishers have been blending e-commerce with content for years, the latest Washington Post incident brings to light questions about the future of the publisher business model, and what impact new revenue sources will have on editorial integrity.

The same questions are being raised about branded content practices (also called native advertising), in which publishers include sponsored content that is intended to look like editorial content. If you haven’t already seen it, check out John Oliver’s recent rant on native marketing, in which he states, “I like to think of news and advertising as the separation of guacamole and Twizzlers. Separately they’re good. But if you mix them together, somehow you make both of them really gross.”

The general public’s tolerance for a Twizzler-and-guacamole combo has yet to be established.

Further reading:

-Posted by Elizabeth Pace

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