Thought Catalog tiptoes into commerce
Millennial mouthpiece Thought Catalog has built a big audience around the angsty ruminations of today’s 20-somethings. Now it wants to use that influence to help its readers spend money.
With Shop Catalog, an experimental new commerce site, Thought Catalog’s parent company, Thought & Expression Co, wants to build an audience around its writers’ product preferences, which it says are a potent form of self-expression. The site’s offering, which has been compiled by a three-person commerce team, is so far an eclectic mix of products that includes 3D printers, books, jewelry and even sex toys.
“The wide variety is because our curators just pick what they love. Personalities shape it,” said Thought Catalog publisher Chris Lavergne. He said that the company created Shop Catalog after seeing big numbers with Thought Catalog’s fashion and style-themed articles, which draw around 10 million visitors each month.
Shop Catalog is the latest effort from Thought & Expression Co, which has tried to expand its business beyond Web publishing into other areas. In 2012, it launched Thought Catalog Books, an independent publishing arm that sells e-books directly to readers. The imprint, which has published 200 books so far, is both profitable and self-sustaining, according to Thought & Expression Co chief revenue officer Alex Magnin.
E-commerce is increasingly in vogue among publishers, who are desperate for new ways to diversify their revenue away from the sinking ship that is display advertising. The likes of Gawker, Refinery 29 and The Wirecutter are all, to varying degrees, using their expertise to drive readers to relevant content — all the while skimming a few pennies off each transaction.
“If a site has good content and links to interesting products, they certainly have a competitive advantage because the two sides are so synergistic,” said Jason Goldberg, vp of commerce strategy at Razorfish.
Affiliate linking, while not the biggest moneymaker, is the most common ways publishers get into e-commerce. But it’s only a small part of Shop Catalog’s revenue strategy (it doesn’t have affiliate linking deals with every retailer it links to). Instead, the site hopes to use its commerce focus to get retail brands to advertise via display ads and sponsored product units. Magnin said that Shop Catalog deals will also extend to sponsored posts on Thought Catalog itself. The site already has high-end retail and beauty brands signed up for Shop Catalog campaigns, which will go live in the next few months.
But creating a commerce site isn’t solely about driving visitors to make purchases. Amazon is best known for its massive e-commerce operation, but it’s also the fifth-most-trafficked site in the U.S., according to Quantcast. The site has put that scale to good use, selling ads to third parties via its Amazon Media Group. On a smaller scale, product-focused sites such as Cool Materials and Uncrate have used their curation skills simply to draw in readers and sell them to relevant advertisers. Shop Catalog is betting it can pull off something similar.
“If people are interested enough in the Shop Catalog, curation on the site can build a big-enough business just around that,” Goldberg said.
Image courtesy of Shop Catalog.
Cheat Sheet: At IAB Podcast Upfront, diverse voices take center stage while podcast advertising revenue and audiences boom
Most of the companies that presented at the IAB Podcast Upfront signaled they had or were going to add more diversity to their programming, both in hosts and content.
Member ExclusiveMedia Briefing: What media companies’ latest earnings reports say about the state of the industry
Media companies' Q1 earnings reports signaled a continued return to business as usual — for better or worse, depending on the company's digital business.
‘Brands tend to be selective’: OMG report offers options to media buyers facing upfront inventory crunch
With a tight upfront TV marketplace expected, one agency group is recommending alternatives in video and CTV.
SponsoredHow The Company Store is reimagining customer experiences for pandemic-era growth
Throughout the pandemic, some retail categories have been inherently successful. Home furnishings and décor are among them; with consumers spending so much more time at home, updates and renovations flourished. Criteo data from the first half of 2020 showed sales for items like outdoor furniture sets up 434% year over year, with other home items […]
‘You’re fixing a number, not changing the culture’: Confessions of a media exec on diversity quotas
In the rush to improve diversity rates, businesses are in danger of overlooking more fundamental ways to sustain inclusivity in the workplace, according to our latest Confessions interviewee.
‘Direct revenue driver’: How local broadcaster News 12 is partnering with Google to build a younger audience
Local broadcaster used support and funding from Google News Initiative to build a new tool that can automatically identify and feed video content into new website verticals.