The content to commerce model, often dubbed ‘service journalism’ is essentially the holy grail of monetizing content that everyone from major publications such as The New York Times to early stage startups, such as the drinking delivery service Thirstie is trying to master. All these companies seem to have their finger on the pulse of the industry but no single company has come up with a model that can be duplicated and transferred across domains.

I was introduced to e-commerce editorial while it was still in its infancy, acting as a commerce editor for Ziff Davis. The company was ahead of the curve with the idea of generating revenue from content in new ways, but perhaps to number-hungry and understaffed to grow out a true commerce editorial team, and ultimately turned most of its e-commerce focus into a pure deal section, even purchasing a few deal sites along the way.

Around 2014 when monetizing content became a more public topic, Gawker ruled the field, with a reported a reported one-third of company revenue coming from native advertising and e-commerce by later 2015. Shortly after other publications including Business Insider and Vox jumped into the game, each trying to find a method of monetizing content that didn’t interrupt the user experience or deter readers, but naturally blended with existing site content. But for these companies duplicating Gawker’s model simply didn’t work. Gawker had spent years grooming an audience expecting to find editorial and shopping advice in one place, and thus revenue was easy to generate.

For most companies now looking to run with the content to commerce model, this is a challenge. Most major publications have existed too long (as they should) working from the theory they should honor editorial integrity about ‘salesy’ content. On the other hand, startups looking to grow out an editorial entity that helps them generate sales simply don’t have enough content or readers to grow a click-happy reader base.

Mastering service journalism isn’t impossible but it does require some deep analyzation into your existing content and strategy formation backed by industry best practices. To give you a leg’s up on the competition, follow some high-level tips that help ensure you grow your reader base as much as you grow the revenue you generate from content:

If You’re Just Starting Off: Use Content to Become an Industry Leader in Your Field First

First of all don’t just push products and services on people, that’s pretty much a no brainer. But then what’s left to write about? Plenty. The trick is to find ways to write about the industry you are in, along with the products, companies, in a way that actually adds value to readers.

Don’t just re-write press releases and publish news anyone can find dozens of other places online. Rather develop a voice and become the site readers go to to get unbias knowledge about what’s upcoming and hot in your particular space.

After you’ve developed that industry dominance you can begin to add products and services into the copy or open your own e-commerce shop, the latter of which will drive better revenue share agreements and increased income anyways.

If You’re Midstage: When Covering Products, Provide a Strong Stance on Them

Reviews are the secret sauce that makes people more likely to buy from you, but they have to be done correctly – with a neutral stance and valid reporting. Yes, this means giving some products negative reviews if they deserve them.

When consumers are in a shopping mindset, they’ll first begin in discovery mode, where they find products, then step further into the shopping cycle to the exploration stage. This is where you want your company to be. You can inspire people about products all day but if consumers don’t trust your stance on them, you’re little more than a Pinterest to readers. Review and actually rank products and services.

Give site-specific top picks, which is what PCMag does genuinely with their Editor’s Choice awards. Once you become a trusted source and hit people at the right time, they’ll be more compelled to not only purchase from your recommendations but, perhaps more importantly, remember you as a reliable source to return to for future shopping insight.

If You’re Later Stage: Develop Editorial That Authenticates Your Company

Going from seller to editorial resource is the hardest route to take but it’s possible to make it work. If you’re approaching content as a second step, you can’t just begin writing about how great certain products are. Doing so is blogging, not service journalism. Rather than waste money writing about products or services you’re already blatantly selling, which just screams spam, use content to proof the legitimacy of your company and cause. This means establishing a network of contributors and creating and true value-packed editorial experience. The way you go about this will greatly depend on your existing company, whether you are a B2B or B2C company and your available resources. Finding contributors can be tricky as well (no one wants to work for free), but it’s possible. A quick trick to get started is to speak, not just participate, at industry events and openly invite audience members to participate. In these

Rather than waste money writing about products or services you’re already blatantly selling, which just screams spam, use content to proof the legitimacy of your company and cause. This means establishing a network of contributors and creating and true value-packed editorial experience. The way you go about this will greatly depend on your existing company, whether you are a B2B or B2C company and your available resources. Finding contributors can be tricky as well (no one wants to work for free), but it’s possible. A quick trick to get started is to speak, not just participate, at industry events and openly invite audience members to participate. In these scenarios, B2B companies have a higher hill to climb than B2C companies, but some have mastered it. For a good example, look at marketing agency

Finding contributors can be tricky as well (no one wants to work for free), but it’s possible. A quick trick to get started is to speak, not just participate, at industry events and openly invite audience members to participate. In these scenarios, B2B companies have a higher hill to climb than B2C companies, but some have mastered it. For a good example, look at marketing agency Relevance’s full news and insight hub. Note that this editorial comes from outside contributors, or industry experts, and that the content, rather than their service, is the company’s homepage.

Image source: INMA

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