Folio:, which claims to be "only magazine that serves the entire magazine publishing industry", is hosting MediaNext in New York at the end of this month. Among its featured speakers is Philippe Guelton, CEO of SheKnows, a web site that has been working to develop its commerce capabilities.
In advance of its event, Folio: interviewed Guelton about the relationship between content and commerce. He argues that content helps drive commerce by:
- "[E]levating the user experience beyond just search and transaction functions"
- Generating "brand loyalty", turning "an e-commerce platform into a destination"
- Adding "this wonderful discovery mechanism"
Guelton also offers advice about how to succeed with a content-commerce strategy:
- Confirm that e-commerce is relevant to a given niche
- Start or develop significant "brand trust" with your audience
- "Make it scalable", through product inventory and adequate margins
- Make it relevant and easy to buy, much as the larger commerce sites do
Although Guelton makes a good case for linking content and e-commerce, he talked to Folio: in only a limited way about how SheKnows is extending those links:
The first focus is on building our "Experts Among Us" platform for both content and commerce applications. We are recruiting hand-raisers among our community and are giving them a platform and tools to collaborate in the creation of content and product recommendations.
Certainly, a user-generated content (UGC) play makes sense for a site called SheKnows, but relying on UGC raises questions about the site's ability to "elevate the user experience" and generate brand loyalty. Those are qualities that seem to require an editorial mindfulness (as well as an interest in finding ways to monetize the content itself).
This assessment reveals my own bias about content: the problem publishers have is not that content is too expensive, but that it is too narrowly deployed. If content is truly useful in driving commerce, then we should be investing in it with an eye to driving commerce, product sales and the development of user-valued solutions.
Sometimes the pursuit of scale can cloud strategy. I like "niche", and it can generate good margins even if it doesn't create a huge business. A site like Equitrekking.com, based on an Emmy-winning international travel show, offers content (the series, blog posts and articles) as well as vacations and travel deals related to its core premise.
Horse vacations may never be big business, but for an audience interested in taking one, Equitrekking is particularly well positioned. In that light, I keep wondering out loud how much scale matters.
A bit of disclosure: I was part of a team that provided consulting services for Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. at a time when Philippe Guelton was the firm's COO. We worked directly with Guelton on the project. I have met Darley Newman, host of "Equitrekking", at an event hosted by Association Media & Publishing, but I have had no business dealings with the show or the site.