A Guide to Content Commerce: The Tools That Make You Money

Article ImageAs the publishing industry continues to evolve, publishers are experimenting with new online models. But to find the right commerce solution, you must think about your primary objectives. Are you building a branded content destination, or are you glad to attract followers around the edges of the digital world in social media outlets or around other properties that do not bear your brand name? Is video an enhancement to your message or a distraction? Is your content valuable to other brands? All of these things must be considered before you choose a commerce model.


Micropayments are a means to sell content piece by piece, bringing in incremental revenue. Rather than ask users to, say, subscribe to your website or buy an entire ebook, publishers can sell bits and pieces of content-a story or a chapter-to users who find that particular piece of content relevant.
Services that enable micropayments have the advantage of making a one-click checkout process possible. With services such as PayPal, Press+, or CashSender, once a user has an account he can purchase content easily any place where the services' logos appear.


Another distinct model is a hybrid of free and paid content. Many well-respected publications employ this method online, such as The New York Times. Nonsubscribers can view a limited number of stories per month before they hit a paywall. But many of the tools that enable this kind of model fall into other categories-for instance, many of the micropayment tools help facilitate payments on freemium sites.

Subscription Models

Aside from micropayments, there are several robust content commerce engines that enable a full subscription model such as Zinio, MediaPass, and Apple, which offers an in-app mechanism. These seem to be thriving because they replicate a model that users are used to offline-they are often referred to as digital newsstands-and guarantee subscription revenue for the publisher. These services will not typically work for an ad hoc published report or less robust blogger.

Content Syndication

Many publishers have turned to content syndication services to help bring in supplemental revenue. Publishers typically receive a fee for the content from the distributor or by advertiser-supported content feeds in which some of the click-through fees are transferred back to the content provider. With content syndication there are varying degrees of control over the ultimate presentation and format of the content, ranging from fixed site distribution to full content syndication, which allows the publisher to select where content will appear. There is also the early stalwart, RSS, which typically allows the content creator less control over the presentation.

Video Commerce

In commerce for video, the field is very distinct from that of traditional content. Whereas content commerce for publications is where new meets old, content commerce for video is a place where new meets newer. According to Danny Drohojowski, an independent film enthusiast and video content distribution expert, online video is not turning a profit for some. He adds, "Ventures looking to merchandise strictly indie film content have not done as well." Video is in a stage of development in which all but the big studio or television network content is free, and the online and mobile video industry is in its infancy. The syndication services offered by leaders are geared toward getting eyeballs and optimizing advertising sales, not direct sales of video content (yet). 

Amazon Payments
PayPal Micropayments
Associated Press
Copyright Clearance Center
Financial Content
Health Day News
Reuters Media
Voice America


Studio One Networks
The Platform