How do you sell dozens of news publishers on commerce content? By giving them a lot to choose from.
That’s why Reviewed, a consumer products reviews site that powers affiliate commerce across the USA Today Network, has expanded its focus from in-depth product reviews to service-y content as well as a rapidly growing library of lists that capitalize on a much-improved search rank.
Those stories have made it possible for Reviewed to generate content that every USA Today Network site uses. As the network continues to syndicate Reviewed content, it’s able to dip a toe into e-commerce and see how it performs without dedicating staff or resources to a kind of editorial content that looks, feels and performs differently than others.
“We were this small niche review site that didn’t really fit for a news organization,” said Chris Lloyd, Reviewed.com’s vp. “The last 12 months have been huge for us as far as integrating into the network.”
By digital standards, Reviewed is ancient. The site, which a 13-year-old girl started in 1997 as camcordernews.com, slowly grew into a network focused on specific product categories. Gannett bought it in 2011.
Because it focuses on serving readers who are in the final stages of researching pricy items to purchase, its traffic has always been tiny. It averages 1.5 million monthly visitors, per comScore, an average that typically doubles during the holiday shopping months of November and December.
But over the past 12 months, as more and more publishers have begun investigating e-commerce and affiliate revenue, Reviewed’s focus has shifted. It now creates content for sites both across the USA Today Network as well as a few third parties, including Wired and Digg.
That’s also empowered Reviewed to start growing its content library to get more value out of its exhaustive product reviews.
“In the past, one test equaled one review,” Lloyd said. “Now, we’ve taken it and built a data management system around it so we can slice and dice around subcategories and publish them programmatically.”
For example, if a Reviewed editor wants to write a post with a title like “The Best Refrigerators With French Doors That Cost Less Than $2,000,” the CMS will automatically grab all the products that fit that description from its archive, add them in and provide links to a retailer where the reader can buy them. At the start of the year, it had a few dozen of these pieces. As of last month, it had over 160 and is on target to have over 230 by year-end, according to a company spokesperson.
For events like Cyber Monday or Amazon’s Prime Day, Lloyd said he works with sister sites in the USA Today Network weeks or months ahead of time on a strategy for maximizing returns across the sites. Otherwise, Reviewed edit staff will pitch individual pieces to specific USA Today members as stories are published, often sharing them via an internal Slack channel.
“We want to get in front of as many people across the in-house network as possible,” Lloyd said. “We want to provide value for those folks, too.”