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January 29, 2021

The Intersection of Content and Commerce

Tom Rathbone

I recently had the opportunity to moderate on Martech Record’s panel titled “The Intersection of Content and Commerce” along with Jessica Spira from Ziff Media Group and Hallie Gellman from NBC Universal. 

For those of us immersed in the business of content and commerce, this panel crystallized the tension we encounter every week at PartnerCentric and touched on many best practices for how performance marketing and content can intersect in a symbiotic way. 

Takeaway 1: Content publishers must keep a delicate balance between the promotional and editorial side of content

Jessica touched on the importance of maintaining “a separation of church and state” between the business/promotional side and the editorial side in order to preserve integrity and serve the reader first, by putting out quality content that is reviewed without bias and covers what the publisher’s audience is interested in.

There has been an influx of mass media companies entering the affiliate space in recent years and that has opened up quite a lot of supply for advertisers. The friction point is in understanding the needs for a publisher site that is editorially driven. The publisher’s audience needs to fit the audience that the brand is trying to reach.

Hallie added that her team’s focus is around ensuring they maintain integrity and serve their audience with content that will convert for the brand. By putting branded content into buckets – SEO optimized content, content that is aligned with promo and brand calendars and content that is of interest to the editors –  they can test new verticals and new products to determine what performs best for the brands. 

Advertisers need to understand that content publishers have to find that delicate balance between serving their audiences with unbiased content and helping brands open themselves up to those audiences.

Takeaway 2: Establish strong relationships with the right content partners…and their audiences

Traditional affiliate hinges upon a skillset of optimizing relationships but promotional content is more than that. It’s about telling the story of a brand to an audience that will care about that story. 

At the end of the day, content affiliates are about service journalism. They must disclose where they can get commission from content and then create engaging content that serves their audience while also helping the brand. Any opportunities for sponsored content must still align with the audience and the publisher brand’s mission.

Advertisers should always ask themselves if they believe a publisher’s audience will engage with their mission and products. Content publishers can typically find the “hook” for their audience, as long as the brand will resonate with that audience.

Takeaway 3: Affiliate is traditionally a “last click” world. But that’s changing.

Content is typically viewed (and valued) as mid-upper funnel activity. Within the affiliate channel, there are also publishers optimized for last click – that creates a conflict that continues to persist for the advertisers. They often want bottom funnel performance for content but they can’t expect the same performance that they would on a coupon or deal site, certainly not when measured on a last click.

Both Jessica and Hallie agreed that access to more full-funnel data could help both content publishers and advertisers, as they will be able to see what’s working and where they should invest based on their KPIs. More transparency helps everyone in the affiliate ecosystem.

Publishers often look at a full-funnel approach on their own end. A branded content piece will perform very differently than an SEO driven review of a product. Advertisers should consider the recommendations of the content publisher when they provide recommendations of the sorts of content that will perform the best based on the advertiser’s goals (raising awareness vs. making sales). Content will perform differently than traditional lead gen vehicles like email but you need to look at it as a holistic approach.

After all, as Hallie said, “Content lives on.”