Readership for Revenue: The Way 8 Publishers are Diversifying with DTC Ecommerce

No longer able to rely on advertising, publishers are diversifying and increasingly turning to ecommerce as a revenue model.

This is how eight of the world’s largest and most prestigious publishers are not just flourishing on the internet, but have also taken their plans one step further using direct-to-consumer (DTC) ecommerce powered by Shopify Plus.

  1. The New York Times
  2. Buzzfeed
  3. The Economist
  4. Conde Naste
  5. Harper Collins
  6. Penguin UK
  7. Los Angeles Times
  8. MindBodyGreen

1. The New York Times

The New York Times has been providing readers”all the news that’s fit to print” since 1851. Now, that the Times is succeeding where other publishers have fallen on hard times: $1.78 billion annual earnings in 2020, online subscription growth, international expansion, and new sorts of storytelling–especially, its very own podcast, The Daily.

At the end of Q4 2020, The New York Times reported that its digital revenue overtook print for the first time, while its digital subscription revenue–its fastest-growing revenue stream–has become its largest. The paper now has 7.5 million subscriptions, of which 6.7 million are digital-only.

“The last ten years were about demonstrating our approach of journalism worth paying for; the next 10 will be about scaling that idea,” said that the Times’ president and chief executive officer, Meredith Kopit Levien, in a press release. “With a billion people reading digital data, and an expected 100 million ready to cover it in English, it isn’t hard to imagine that, over time, The Times’s subscriber base may be considerably larger than where we are now.”

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Always forward-thinking, the NYT’s direct-to-consumer offering gives its expanding reader base an excess touchpoint for connecting with its journalism.In its own online shop , the business sells branded product, archival photography, books, and personalized front page reprints.

However, what is really innovative is how the NYT has obtained its extensive library of print and digital content and monetized them both by supplying readers custom solutions.

For instance, it gives made-to-order personalized books, such as its bestselling Ultimate Birthday Book. More recent lines, including its cooking collection, have resulted from collaborations with newsroom editors and reflect the values and sensibilities of the communities they’re made for.

“Retail is a game of trade-offs, thus it’s necessary to build consensus about why your publication wants a store in the first place,” says Robyn Metzger, the director of the Times’ online shop. “Work with stakeholders to develop a set of principles from there, and then make it your job to stick to those principles.”


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2. BuzzFeed

When you’re that the place the net turns to for popular culture–think trends, lists, quizzes, memes, GIFs, amusement information –it’s reasonable that you would venture into selling merch.

That is exactly what BuzzFeed neglected in 2016.

The organization’s flagship product was the Tasty One Top, an induction cooktop with app integration created by Cuisinart. It climbed from BuzzFeed’s Tasty, the world’s largest social food network. (At the risk of getting meta, The New York Times covered that story under the headline, “How BuzzFeed’s Tasty Conquered Online Food.” )

Another case in point: one record that made the rounds on social networking was on Donald Trump’s excitement about sitting Mack trucks. When a reader made the comment,”This manual could make a exceptional book,” like this, it was.

Despite the fact that the book is no longer available, it illustrates how BuzzFeed can have an idea that is producing cultural buzz online and run with it to have, sometimes within hours or days, a product available to sell.

“We love [Shopify] to the moon and back. The pace at which we can allow our skill and community to dream up merch and make it live and linked to articles is critical,” Buzzfeed’s former chief commerce officer Ben Kaufman informed Shopify at 2018. “Our purpose is to produce products that are a part of and create culture as fast as possible.”

Now, Kaufman is in charge of growth in the BuzzFeed-backed CAMP toy stores —an experimental brand that is using its publishing platform to drive consumers to its online and brick-and-mortar stores .

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3. The Economist

In a similar manner, The Economist has also joined the ranks of D2C. Its ecommerce shop provides not just back issues, diaries, and personalized printing on books, but t-shirts, mugs, and bags–many of which are extended in its trademark red and black.

Furthermore, it conducts a digital learning center,, where customers can enroll for online courses which vary from business and science to economics and productivity. Books, laminated reference guides, and special reports are also available to purchase through’s ecommerce pillar.

The Economist quickly attracted its learning directly to clients with certainty that Shopify Plus will have the ability to scale with its growth and expand as it needed to through multiple revenue channels.

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4. Condé Nast

Mega-publisher Condé Nast has one of the largest portfolios in the world, and obviously Some of the highest profile brands: GQ, Vanity Fair, Vogue, The New Yorker, Wired, and Bon Appétit, among others.

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That doesn’t mean it’s been resistant to declining advertising revenues. To combat this, Roger Lynch–the media group’s chief executive–has laid-out a plan where subscribers and ecommerce will be crucial to Condé Nast’s heritage continuing.

The Financial Times reports that programs are now underway for exclusive services and goods to be established later in 2021, like a Bon Appétit subscription service, which will allow paying members access to recipes and electronic cooking lessons.

It is anticipated that by 2024, subscriptions and ecommerce products will constitute 30% of the publisher’s earnings.

5. ) HarperCollins

HarperCollins was in trouble. The ecommerce platform it was using to host Collins Learning–its educational publishing armwas going to be stopped. As to not skip a beat, it hired We Make Websites (WMW), an agency which specializes in building in Shopify Plus stores, allowing it to replatform.

In four weeks, the agency was able to build a new store that eliminated”nightmare-ish navigation,” helps individuals preview books, lets them order, and organizes complex products that frequently have multiple statuses and formats.

On top of that, WMW also created a much-needed Customized voucher for parents and teachers, who are allowed to purchase in slightly different ways:

Only teachers are permitted to purchase a bulk quantity of textbooks at a lower rate, including evaluation copies–but they ought to be paid with a school-registered credit card or faculty account.

“We really pushed the technical boundaries of Shopify Plus allowing evaluation copies to be purchased and created two strict purchase journeys for both vital markets,” explains WMW’s case analysis.

6. Penguin UK

Books may not be what comes to mind when you think of”innovation,” but Penguin has always been in the forefront of innovative product development and delivery. Its line of affordable high quality paperbacks was conceived of by founder Allen Lane in 1935, when he was waiting for a train without anything to read. Within two years, the first Penguin book vending machine was put up in a railway station, and in under a year, a million books were printed.

In 2017, the publisher turned into another customer We Make Websites, as it began selling its iconic colourful paperbacks–alongside tote bags, homewares, and stationary–on the Shopify Plus platform. In the pandemic era, Penguin has also used the store to sell tickets to its exclusive online events, like writing workshops taught by award-winning authors.

Today, the publisher sells more than 600 million printed books, e-books, and pornographic novels globally annually.


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7. Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times knows its readers –and nothing better reflects this compared to the products provided via its ecommerce store. Yes, you’ll discover everything you’d expect from a newspaper publisher, namely back issues, page prints, and personalized birthday publications containing news clips from selected dates. But, its bestsellers are unique to the residents of the city, including a guide to hiking in LA and a Kobe Bryant memorial magazine, together with branded apparel.

Instead of risk its store going stagnant, The LA Times also regularly updates goods on its own site to coincide with holidays like Earth Day and Mother’s Day–and highlights back issues tied to significant events, such as election problems.

8. Mindbodygreen

In 2017, Mindbodygreen set an ambitious goal. Right now, its eight-figure annual earnings was primarily based on ads, but it had to transition this to 50 percent from ecommerce.

“Wellness as a group is enormous and growing rapidly, and I believe the advertising chance alone is as big as $100 million,” said CEO and founder Jason Wachob in the time. “But looking at ecommerce, the chance may be even bigger than that.

Mindbodygreen already had a fantastic revenue stream from selling access to online wellness courses, but the health and wellbeing market was ready to launch its own products. Yet, as opposed to selling branded yoga mats–a product that might have been easy to start and well-aligned with its readership–it chose to take a deep dive into the analysis. What it discovered was its primary female audience was deeply invested in skincare (they are 5.4 times more likely to have spent $500 or more on skin care in the past six months) and 82 percent were already taking supplements regularly.

In 2019, Mindbodygreen released its initial products: a lineup of six supplements that focus on improving skin clarity, gut health, and mood support. By 2020, it was well on its way to achieving the goal set out three decades earlier, with products projected to signify nearly a quarter of its revenue.

Publishing and DTC Ecommerce in the 21st Century

As these eight publishers attest, publishing is far from dead. By diversifying product offerings and revenue streams, you can deepen the connection that your present audience has for your socket


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