Inside the Evening Standard’s commerce play, Go London

The Evening Standard launched Go London in February. The site highlights things to do in the capital, like where to party like Prince Harry or the 12 best ceilings in London, and lets people buy tickets and book restaurant tables.

The publisher said it makes $100,000-plus in monthly revenue and sees 2,000 transactions a month, on average. Unique monthly visits to Go London have grown by 30 percent since it launched in beta in December, according to Omniture figures from the publisher.

“We want to keep Go London relevant and useful, while maintaining the tone of the Evening Standard,” said David Tomchak, digital director for editorial at Evening Standard. “Good content creates loyalty. We’ll keep hiring journalists to create interesting material to give good, quality reviews.”

The most sold items are theater tickets tied to reviews, he added, typically because people look for a play review if they want to see it, so Go London will continue making search engine optimization a priority.

With Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle happening May 19, the most popular content covers activities or venues the couple visits in London, with input from the Evening Standard’s royals editor, Robert Jobson. The site also runs programmatic display ads, and not all the content on Go London has an e-commerce element to it.

“The balance is not just about the commercial entities, but the balance is of interesting relevant material on the page. That’s the tail, not the dog,” said Tomchak. “The content is the most important, and then we’ll fit the commercial units around it intelligently, making sure that one part doesn’t take away from the other.”

The Evening Standard also makes money through programmatic display ads and branded content through its content studio, Story Studio. The publisher wouldn’t disclose the portfolio split.

In the scramble to add commerce as a revenue line, publishers are exploring which models work for them. Future Publishing and BuzzFeed focus on trends in what people search for or talk about on social media to inform commerce-led content. Highsnobiety, meanwhile, designs products tied to its content.

“Six figures of revenue shows strong traction, but e-commerce is a winner-takes-all market,” said Fabrizio Fantini, co-founder of e-commerce company Expressly. “To sustain a competitive advantage, you need to grow to eight or nine figures a year fairly quickly.” By comparison, Time Out, Go London’s close competitor, reported annual e-commerce revenues of £4.7 million ($6.4 million) in 2016.

For Go London, keeping the focus narrow to ticket sales and restaurant bookings will help it limit costs as it grows, Fantini said. “You have to make it relevant in order to stick,” he said, either through tracking, registration walls or readers inputting preferences.

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