Both are very different answers to the same problem: how to make money in a world of falling print revenues and rising ad-blocking. Many look towards branded content and native advertising as the answer to this conundrum. However, such activity tends to be led by brands rather than editorial content, resulting in articles that brands may be very happy with but which consumers are less interested in reading. Additionally, such an approach is very labour-intensive, relying on a large and expensive sales team.
One more seamless approach to monetisation is the creation of "comtent". Comtent is editorially driven content about products and shoppable brands, such as product reviews, top-ten lists and gift guides. This kind of content is written first and foremost for the reader’s interest but is monetised after it has been independently written via automated affiliate solutions.
Unlike branded content, though, the concept, products listed and message of comtent are driven by editorial teams, not by advertisers, making the articles interesting and useful to the reader. And with 89 per cent of consumers researching online about what they plan to buy and where to buy it from, such articles are in demand.
Aside from the revenue made from affiliatising links in these comtent articles, a publisher can also gain insights into the products and brands their readers are interested in, which can further inspire editorial ideas and advertising strategies.
Alongside the growth of comtent, we expect to see a rise in the role of the commerce editor. This person works with an editorial point of view and an appreciation of the kinds of products and brands their community is interested in. Publishers with a strategy of building more comtent, including Gawker Media, The Independent and Trinity Mirror, have seen great value from the role and invested further, while those that have been slower to the party have learnt from their peers’ success.
But what will make comtent any better than branded content and native advertising when it comes to quality? Well, the publisher only earns money when the reader clicks on a product or buys it. Poor-quality comtent simply won’t be read or trusted.
Of course, comtent isn’t a panacea for all of the issues facing media companies, but it is becoming more effective and more widely used as a natural complement to publishers’ existing business models.
Alicia Navarro is the chief executive and co-founder of Skimlinks