Content and commerce collide: Is it harder for publishers or e-tailers?

Media companies are looking for new revenues through selling things. Meanwhile, more commerce sites are starting to publish. Is it easier for content to transform into commerce — or vice versa?

When it comes to online content and commerce these days, it seems like everyone wants to be in everyone else’s business. E-commerce companies like Birchbox and Gilt Groupe talk up the value of an “editorial voice” (even hiring professional content creators to back that up).  And recognizing the limitations of traditional display advertising, publishers from The New York Times and Bonnier to newer players like Thrillist and Gawker are turning to their readers as a source of commerce.

“This notion of content being here and commerce being there doesn’t really exist any more. Everyone has become a publisher,” Lerer Ventures partner and former Huffington Post CEO Eric Hippeau said Tuesday at Group Commerce’s Think Commerce conference in New York.

But, as content and commerce merge, he added “it’s a lot easier for commerce brands to become publishers…than it is for people on the media side to add commerce.”

Historically, publishers have respected the line between “church and state,” separating editorial content from advertising and commercial content. Even Condé Nast’s Lucky fashion magazine, which is perfectly positioned for commerce, has not made the transition, he said. (Although the recently-launched iPad app does include direct links to products.)

And, it’s easy to understand why that bridge is difficult to cross. In addition to the cultural resistance against compromising an editorial identity with a commercial interest, e-commerce involves creating a whole new business model, with potentially new margin structures, customer service needs and other requirements.

Read the rest of this story on Gigaom.

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