How this publisher transitioned to become a content-to-commerce play


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Below he shares some thoughts with us ahead of speaking at the FIPP World Congress about Ebner’s transformation from publisher to content-to-commerce play. The Congress takes place from 9-11 October in London. You can book your tickets here

Some publishers are better than others at helping customers pick products that are most relevant based on context and curatorship. Will you be identifying some of these best practices in your talk? 

Over the past six years Ebner has built an extensive infrastructure of in-house technologies to analyse and identify in real-time, what products our readers might be interested in. At the heart of our three-step-strategy ‘attract-retain-monetise’ is to serve relevant content, on the right channels, at the right time in order to attract and retain as many readers as possible while converting some of them to paid products. To achieve that goal we use real-time relevancy algorithms that are the base of, for instance, our ecommerce widgets that serve paid products alongside editorial content on our websites, in our newsletters and apps. These widgets have an average conversion rate of 17 per cent, that is: 17 per cent of readers who click on any of our widgets end up buying a product on one of our ecommerce stores. 

That’s what I’m going to talk about in London: how do we at Ebner employ and implement technology to mix and merge content with ecommerce as tightly as possible in order to unlock the hidden monetisation value of our editorial content. 

While there are some that subscribe to the idea that there is one overarching stage-by-stage approach to content-based e-commerce that most publishers and brands can subscribe to, others believe no single company has come up with a model that can be duplicated and transferred across brands and domains. Is your work at Ebner bringing you closer to a solution? Is this part of what you will be sharing at Congress? 

Every reader is different just as every publisher and media brand is different. It is my understanding that, aside from the traditional subscription and newsstands revenue model, no single e-commerce strategy has proven to be the killer application for all media publishers. But, but, but… there are many best practices out there! And as diverse or fragmented as they may be, you can still curate and adapt them as you see fit in your organisation. One example from the Ebner universe: we have mixed some of the content strategy best practices with what the former American publisher F+W has been doing under the guidance of their executive David Nussbaum. These two approaches have led to our attract-retain-monetise strategy, the invention of our transaction editor role and the real-time relevancy ecommerce widgets. 

Will you share ideas about best practices for using various platforms and integrating platforms for service journalism? 

Ebner operates under the umbrella of our ‘audience first’ approach. We want to be were the readers are, no matter the platform, time of day, or content format. Increasingly we observe that content is consumed ‘homeless’ aka distributed media. Suddenly readers wouldn’t visit our websites anymore but follow our brands across social media, newsletters, external posts, on events or elsewhere. How do you monetise such an audience? Quite a challenge, I must say. 

Nonetheless, we embrace any challenge that we come across and that’s why in London I will be sharing our ecommerce best practices, ‘homeless’ content strategies and how we visualise Ebner 2020. 

You are a great believer in evergreen content. How important is this for a content-to-commerce strategy? 

Evergreen is the cornerstone of our content strategy. No evergreens, no success. More evergreens, more reach, more conversions, more revenues. Sounds easy but it’s extremely difficult to pull off a successful and longlasting evergreen strategy. Working with evergreens is an evergreen workflow, it just never stops. Ebner has a 7-step evergreen strategy (read and view it here) and this strategy really is everything we’re doing internally at the moment. Yet we do see that homeless media will drastically change some aspects of our evergreen principles. So, get ready for homeless evergreens, fellow publishers! 


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Will you touch on how important big data and analytics have become in your ecommerce strategy? 

At Ebner our entire ecommerce strategy is built on data models. All algorithms that we use to match content with commerce products are data-based. And most of the key aspects of Ebner’s audience first approach have a large collection of data as their framework. Big data = big fun but it’s hard work. 

Many Congress goers are interested to hear more about the so-called transaction editors? We assume you have enough experiences to share? 

It’s been quite a journey going from the first transaction editor to the 50-plus we have today. But the future waits for no-one and we’re discussing the next steps of our transaction journalism strategy. My personal view is that transaction editors will one day be called transformation editors. They not only trigger transaction, they also trigger transformation by being closely aligned with the content consumption habits of their audience and by following the readers to whatever platform they prefer. From transformation to transaction: that’s where successful transitions in the Ebner newsroom begin. 

More about Dominik Grau… 

Dominik Grau is the chief innovation officer of the Ebner Media Group, where he leads the transformation of the entire company together with CEO Gerrit Klein and COO Martin Metzger. Ebner is a 200-year old privately held publisher with 80+ magazines and 40+ websites across four continents. In Germany the company was the first publisher to introduce the transaction editor role while having implemented a far-reaching portfolio of disruptive technologies and strategies such as real-time content-to-commerce algorithms. 

From 2011 to 2015 Dominik served as Ebner’s international managing director in New York with a focus on transforming the formerly local publishing unit into a global multi-platform powerhouse. Before joining Ebner he was an online director at IDG. There he led the digital B2C business in Germany with a portfolio of some of the country’s largest tech websites. Prior to IDG Dominik was an editor-in-chief for content marketing at Burda, a top 5 media company in Germany, where he also began his career as a trainee and news editor. Dominik has been active on the internet since the early 1990’s, he worked as an IT admin during high school and college.

Meet him at the 41st FIPP World Congress from 9-11 October in London.


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