Commerce has gone from a curiosity to a meaningful source of revenue for Dotdash. The service-focused publisher grew its commerce revenues from $1 million to $7 million this year, about 10 percent of its revenue. It now has three full-time editors managing 20 contributors cranking out content across a number of different verticals.
Dotdash’s interest in commerce makes sense. More than two-thirds — 71 percent — of traffic to commerce content comes from search, according to research by Narrativ, a vendor that helps publishers price products featured in their e-commerce content. And Dotdash’s years of experience in Google search — more than two-thirds of its traffic comes from search — helped the publisher get its e-commerce operations off to a fast start, leaping out to a seven-figure run rate within months of its launch.
Dotdash CEO Neil Vogel said commerce will account for about 10 percent of Dotdash’s revenue this year. He predicted that next year, its growth will outpace the growth of its advertising revenue, which is up 40 percent year over year in the fourth quarter so far, to $20 million. At the start of this year, most of the commerce revenue came from Lifewire, Dotdash’s tech site, which has accounted for as much as 70 percent of Dotdash’s commerce revenue.
But the affiliate commissions on consumer electronics are often just 2 or 3 percent, so Dotdash has focused on publishing more posts about items that command higher commissions. Dwyer Frame, a veteran from Time Inc., came aboard in September to oversee lifestyle-focused commerce content that can live on The Spruce, Dotdash’s home-focused title, or ThoughtCo, its site for education and learning. Dotdash also earns commerce revenue from lead generation campaigns it runs for travel companies through TripSavvy, its travel-focused site, and for financial services companies on The Balance, Dotdash’s personal finance site.
Today, Vogel said, Lifewire accounts for 40 percent of its commerce revenue. The Spruce now accounts for another 40 percent, with Dotdash’s other verticals accounting for the rest.
Some commissions, particularly for credit cards, can be substantial. But Vogel stressed that the commerce strategy for Dotdash’s sites is driven more by what its audience is searching for, rather than items that offer the biggest payouts. “We get cues from our audience on what commerce things to write about,” he said.
Like other commerce publishers, a lot of Dotdash’s commerce revenues come from Amazon, but it’s made deals with some other retailers, including Google, on things like sponsored gift guides. It has focused on working with retailers that deliver a good experience and convert a healthy amount of visitors to purchase. “We’re trying to focus on lifetime value, not the value of that transaction,” said Tory Brangham, Dotdash’s vp of e-commerce.