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Eyes Wide Open View of the Commerce Publishing Space

Mar 23, 2023 by Kendal Clarke

This article is the first in a series of articles examining the business of commerce publishing. We will examine the opportunities, the risks and the resources needed to build sustainable commerce publishing businesses. 


I saw the Digiday article that came out on March 8th about small publishers seeing commerce as an area for growth and I immediately thought  “Geez I hope they know what they are getting into.” With the backdrop of many tech and media companies having to have made major layoffs in the past six months citing commerce revenues and profits being below target, I thought it could be useful to make sure there was a clear picture of the challenges the commerce industry is facing. 

Diversification of revenue sources away from traditional display advertising can be really appealing and tapping into a new revenue channel is also really exciting, but there are definitely some areas they will need to be cognizant of. 

At the risk of sounding too academic, I mapped out the opportunity from a digital or traditional publisher’s perspective using Porter’s 5 Forces so you can properly analyze the risk. 

1. Competition in the industry


High and getting higher! There are a lot of highly established brands competing for consumers’ attention and trust. The pandemic increased this level of competition even further as more small and large publishers invested in creating commerce content. Domain Authority and extremely high-quality content mean a lot right now if you want to capture a significant volume of organic traffic. You can see some great visualizations here at showing the dominance of the major publishing networks. 

Most large publishers are already earning at least part of their revenue from affiliate channels.  

Recommendation for mitigating risk: Before expanding into multiple niches make sure to build credibility and authority in the primary area you are covering. Whether you call it a content node or pyramid, make sure you are signaling to readers as well as algos that your site is authoritative and experienced in the topic.  

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