Jason Del Rey

Recent Posts by Jason Del Rey

Look, Ma! A Content-Commerce Marriage That Actually Makes Sense.

Content and commerce. Commerce and content. Go ahead, roll your eyes.

The problem with fashionable business trends such as this one is that they often simply serve as lame substitutions for innovation. Faltering media companies often talk about commerce so they can boast about diversification. And undifferentiated commerce companies rave about the “storytelling” that sets them apart, when the reality is that not every product has a cool backstory.

James Ransom Food52 co-founders Amanda Hesser (l) and Merrill Stubbs

But there are times when the two actually should go together.

Case in point: Today’s launch of Provisions, an online shop from Food52, the foodie media site co-founded by former Times food editor Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs.

“I know content and commerce feels kind of like a flavor-of-the-month business model, but that’s not the reason we’re doing this,” Hesser said in an interview. “The reason is because it actually makes sense for us to combine the two. If you’re entertaining for the weekend, you need recipes, ideas and inspiration, a place to ask questions, and you need goods and gear.”

The use case Hesser outlines is pretty straightforward and commonplace; it should work if executed well. The site is launching with a modest catalog of about 80 products, but expect that number to grow by 10 or 20 every week, Hesser said. Still, Provisions may need to broaden its catalog to appeal to enough people.

James Ransom

At launch, items for sale are arranged by category — Kitchen, Table, Pantry and Outdoors — as well as themes called Collections. A “Rooftop Party” Collection, for example, intersperses images of products such as grilling planks and crab knives with headlines such as “How to Cook on a Wood Plank” and “How to Make Any Crab Cake in 5 Easy Steps.”

Eventually, products for sale will be integrated into editorial posts where it makes sense in a soft-sell kind of way. Hesser said Food52 gets a 42 percent cut of each sale, and is shooting to grow the commerce business into one that contributes half of the company’s overall revenue.

But first, it’ll need to train its readers — 1.7 million monthly according to internal numbers, but 635,000 according to comScore — that the place they visit for recipes and cooking advice is the best place to purchase their cookware. It won’t be easy to change shopping habits. But, at least in theory, this type of content and commerce should work well together.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik