Commercial Sales

Given the current economic climate, the move towards online dissemination of information and the drive for open access and free information, commercial sales is becoming an increasingly attractive revenue generating proposition for publishers. While everybody is familiar with advertising and sponsorship, the online medium in particular offers so much more variety and flexibility. It is possible to devise programs that help commercial partners with exposure, brand awareness, lead generation and education of the market in a non-intrusive way that can be welcomed by the audience as genuinely beneficial.

What is Commercial Sales?

'Commercial Sales' is the term used to describe the revenue that a publisher generates from sources other than content sales. The revenue normally comes from a commercial third party that has a target audience of the readership of the content.

What forms can Commercial Sales take?

The most traditional forms of commercial sales take the form of advertising/sponsorship and the publishing of third party content under an existing brand. However, the trend towards and the flexibility of the online dissemination of information has led to an explosion of new ideas often with the previously difficult objectives of lead generation and relationship building.

  • Advertising – Independent exposure within an existing content stream.
  • Sponsorship – Association with a specific piece of content or brand.
  • Special Issue/Supplemental Issue – Presentation of new content (sometimes supplied by the commercial partner) or relevant re-purposed content, funded by the commercial partner, either within or without the existing schedule respectively.
  • Webinar – An online, audio-visual seminar. This can take the form of an infomercial (with a focus on commercial information) or an educational webinar (with a focus on educational material).
  • Virtual Conference – An online conference. Audio-visual presentations, file downloads, live communication both editorially selected and commercially supplied. The intention is to give a flexible platform with a niche, self-qualified audience that voluntarily downloads information from the commercial partners.

What are the required considerations when planning a commercial sales campaign?

  • What objectives is the commercial partner trying to achieve (e.g. education of the market, lead generation, brand exposure, market research)?
  • What would be the impact on any associated brands or content (is the editorial integrity maintained, will impact factor be affected etc.)?
  • What are the associated revenue and costs involved.
  • What is the effect on the audience (for example, will they consider any commercial content as informative of intrusive)? And will the audience’s perception enhance or damage their acceptance of any future products and events?

Which publishers should consider commercial sales as a possible revenue stream?

All publishers! For some publishers/publications, it is potentially the primary, if not only revenue stream (e.g. free newspapers, many B2B publications). In these instances, an external, objective perspective can help to make internal processes more efficient, open up new potential markets, suggest new product development etc.

For other publishers/publications it might turn out that the risks outweigh the benefits of commercial sales. However given the flexibility and variety of possible solutions now possible, this should not be assumed without consideration. An investigative project which leads to a negative decision to pursue commercial sales revenue is still a positive outcome.

In most cases, it is possible to integrate commercial revenue streams with other revenue streams in a way that neither compromises the editorial integrity nor alienates the audience. The form of achieving this can look very different for each publisher/publication.