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Smooth Operator, Season 1, Episode 5. Camilla Cho, SVP eCommerce at Vox Media

Nov 8, 2023 by Martech Record

On our fifth episode of Smooth Operator, we talk with Camilla Cho, the SVP of ecommerce at Vox Media. We discuss her career transition from business development to commerce and affiliate marketing and learn about her work in launching The Strategist, which is still Vox Media’s main ecommerce brand. In the interview, Cho shares her own career journey, her advice for aspiring affiliate ecommerce and affiliate marketing professionals and her observations and predictions of trends to come.

 

 

 

 

After nearly 20 years in the media industry, Cho has seen a shift over the last decade toward a focus on generating one’s own revenue. That’s gotten her thinking about opportunities that can organically begin without relying too heavily on another partner since those relationships can be risky and short-lived. 

“I think as we all know, media companies have some hesitation, trepidation, about getting too close with some of the bigger platforms,” she said. Furthering dependency on them can come with its own risks. 

In media, those organic revenue streams can look like a premium membership program or an affiliate business, she said. It’s about finding new mediums of content and storytelling, rather than “just taking the written form of content usually in the form of articles, and finding new places to distribute that to.” 

That’s what led her to explore ecommerce when she was at New York Mag, which evolved into Vox. As the head of business development, Cho was looking into creating new revenue streams for the company and identified ecommerce as something worth trying.

What started with a few links and articles on The Cut grew – with Cho’s encouragement and guidance – grew and grew. 

“At the end of these series of tests, we all looked at the metrics and the results and we're like, ‘This is potentially something big and we might not want to just contain it to playing in The Cut’s sandbox.’” 

That’s how The Strategist was born. 

As Cho saw it come to life, she realized she didn’t want to hand over the baton. So she transitioned her role. In the interview, she discusses how she made that switch and how the partnerships with the editorial and business teams were the key to The Strategist’s early success.

Working for a large media conglomerate comes with its own rewards and challenges, Cho said. But known, storied brands – the Hearsts and the Conde Nasts of the world – have valuable credibility. In the era of influencers and creators, Cho sees a need for brands to have more authority and build trust with customers. That requires investments in product engineering – potentially giving legacy publications with deep pockets an edge to make important investment plays, she said.

As the industry prepares for the opportunities and threats of new technology, including AI, Cho said the key will be content strong enough to gain an organic audience. 

“I think the affiliate space has been very stable for a long time without a ton of new innovation,” Cho said. But that’s changing, she said, explaining some of the new trends she sees coming.

“And I think that's a good thing for the overall affiliate space, and hopefully that leads to more innovation.”