How The Knot uses content to grow consumer revenue three ways

Couples’ wedding needs haven’t changed much over the years. But as digital advertising has become harder to come by, wedding-focused publisher The Knot has been courting small businesses for its vendor marketplace with more services and pushing harder on commerce content.

Those revenue streams — subscription fees from vendors to appear in the marketplace, registry, plus direct and affiliate commerce revenue — delivered 77 percent of revenue in the third quarter of 2018, according to the last quarterly earnings report The Knot’s parent company, XO Group, released before announcing in September it would go private in 2019. Growth in both areas helped boost XO Group’s revenues even as advertising declined 25 percent year over year, with commerce ($25 million) surpassing advertising year to date ($21 million).

“Digital ads might be something that’s declining, but the desire for couples to get good advice is still the same,” XO Group chief financial officer Gillian Munson said. “You’re effectively replacing monetization vehicles.”

The Knot also is wringing more out of its content. The editorial team produces or updates around 160 pieces of content per month, said editor in chief Kristen Maxwell Cooper. It’s still monetizing those pages with ads while finding additional ways to monetize that evergreen traffic.

“We’ve started to devote more resources to both creating content opportunities that work well for our commerce partners as well as using content for a signal to understand some problems that our customers want to solve, and then finding the right partners to help them solve those problems,” said Guy Vidra, vp of national revenue at XO Group.

For example, Vidra found that Knot readers searched for information about how to preserve their wedding dresses, so it found a wedding-dress preservation company and developed a Knot-branded dress preservation package, then put links to that service in an article.

It also uses reader traffic and affiliate conversion data to forge direct affiliate and advertising deals with brands or through affiliate networks, a practice that is becoming increasingly common among publishers with commerce operations.

“For better and maybe worse, data around successful commerce initiatives is also being used really effectively by sales teams,” said Shane Roberts, chief editor of affiliate commerce platform Skimlinks. “Using commerce data to show an audience’s affinity toward a brand or category to sell more ads is something I’ve seen a lot of success around.”

The Knot also uses its content to promote the 29,000 wedding vendors listed in its marketplace by mentioning them in articles in its local print editions. To keep vendors paying to be in the marketplace, which costs thousands of dollars a year, The Knot earlier this month also created an app that helps vendors with tasks like managing their leads, responding to customer queries and reviews and updating their storefronts. The Knot Pro app is part of a broader push the Knot has made to better serve vendors as they get more sophisticated digitally.

“We have had to put a fair amount into understanding how best to connect couples to vendors,” Munson said. “It’s not just, ‘You get traffic to your storefront.’ We’re helping them get email [addresses].”

Update: An earlier version of this story said XO Group earned $20 million in ad revenue through the first three quarters of 2018. It earned $21 million.

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