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How to monetise product referral schemes - Breton Fischetti on Business Insider’s innovation Insider Picks

Magazine companies and mainstream media organisations are increasingly finding that product referral systems can prove to be a lucrative revenue source. Yet choosing the right products, and presenting them in a way that doesn't undermine the rest of the editorial can be quite a challenge.

One of the most wide ranging and successful of these referral schemes has been Insider Picks which was developed by the Axel Springer owned Business Insider. 

Here Business Insider’s senior director commerce, Breton Fischetti, who will speak at the 2018 DIS, explains how Insider Picks works and where the company might take the platform in the future. 

Breton Fischetti ()

***Registration for DIS 2018 (19-20 March in Berlin) is now available. Save hundreds of euros on the registration price when you sign up before 1 December 2017. Secure your place here***

Can you explain what Insider Picks is, how it works and where did the idea come from? 

Insider Picks is the team within our organisation that focuses on testing and recommending products and services to our readers. The idea stemmed from the fact that our company has always been trying to delight and inform people. We'd been doing this already with some product reviews occasionally, and so we decided to go in and build a team around it. So much shopping is moving online and people don't have time to analyse every new company that's starting. We do the hard work for our readers and show them only the best and most interesting products we find. 

Explain the curation process for choosing the products? How do you work with say crowdfunded products? 

Our selection process starts with the team. We hire and train our editorial team to be passionate product experts. They live and breathe this stuff. What we're trying to do is focus specifically on the things that we think are worth our readers' time and money. It's a mix of tried and tested brands that have been around for a long time as well as new entrants into the market. Crowdfunding has made it easier than ever to start something, which is great. However, we need to see not only a successful crowdfunding campaign but also a successful delivery of the project and future sustainability. We take the trust of our readers very seriously, and we want to make sure the creators deliver before we can work together. Having personally backed several projects that didn't come to fruition, I know firsthand what a disappointment that can be and we want to ensure our readers don't have that experience. 

BI Picks ()

 

Referral programs in publishing seem to be undergoing a significant renaissance at the moment? Is it purely because of the drive for additional revenue streams, or is there a technological play that has them more central to media businesses again? 

This is a great business model for publishers when done correctly. It's part of the evolution of publishers into data driven organisations. The display market saw a rise in programmatic as both advertisers and publishers got more data savvy and what we're doing on the affiliate side is the same thing. It's all about another way we can drive value, both for readers and partners. 

Is there sweet spot for Insider Picks customers in terms of age and demographic? Any thoughts as to why this is? 

Insider Picks readers tend to be under 35 and male. It's a core demographic for the sites overall and has been since we started. That's great because they already trust us and it's a natural place to grow from. For 2018 I'd really like to see more engagement and interest from our female readers. Those readers have a lot of great options already, so we're up against some stiff competition for influence. 

How does Insider Picks work from an SEO perspective? Does it create fresh challenges for the wider BI team? 

We want to be helping people discover products that are going to make their lives easier, and one easy way to find people who are looking for help is to go where they are looking for it, which is search. We approach our stories in search the same way the whole company does, by trying to be as helpful as possible while keeping our style, voice and perspective. 

From a logistical point of view was it hard to find good editorial people? 

What we're doing requires a special kind of person. If you look, you'll always find people who are passionate about testing and reviewing stuff. They're the kind of people everyone knows. You ask them for recommendations whenever you're looking to buy something. We want to hire those people. 

How important is is that Insider Picks stories are clearly differentiated? Is this something that you think readers are aware of? 

Disclosures and being upfront with our audience is crucial. The whole reason we're able to do this is because we're very upfront about what we're doing and why. At the end of the day our audience is aware of how it works and as long as we're making great recommendations for them, they are happy to keep engaging with our stories. 

BI Picks 2 ()

 

What is the process that BI goes through before launching a new site (eg Tech Insider etc.)? 

We look for gaps in the market and whether or not we feel that they align with our core abilities. 

Where do you think Insider Picks might go in the future? Any innovations in the pipeline? 

I think there's still a lot of room for us to grow by talking about more and more product categories. We also don't reach our female audience as much as we do our male readers. It's important that we close that gap so we can effectively help all of our readers as best as we possibly can. 

***Registration for DIS 2018 (19-20 March in Berlin) is now available. Save hundreds of euros on the registration price when you sign up before 18 December 2017. Secure your place here***

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