ESI Media owns The Evening Standard and The Independent, but each newspaper approaches affiliate product recommendations differently.
“To add value to our consumers, we ask, ‘What’s relevant to our users? And where do we have authority?’” said Sandro Del Grosso, head of digital partnerships and ecommerce for ESI Media.
For example, The Evening Standard offers readers “the pulse of London,” Del Grosso said – recommendations for things to do and see. Those suggestions perform well and naturally extend the brand. And since people like to dress up when they go out, fashion and beauty affiliate recommendations do well too.
In comparison, The Independent, which covers a broader range of topics, looks for opportunities to benefit consumers, he said. The “IndyBest” series curates the best products across tech, home and garden, travel and finance.
A decade after creating its affiliate marketing program, ESI Media works with tens of thousands of retailers. It also partners with affiliated-focused companies such as Savings United, which brokers custom offers for publishers from brands.
Data backs up ESI Media’s sense of what works best for each brand. Del Grosso is working to combine all of its data into a single business intelligence tool that makes it easier to see which articles drive sales – and which fail to guide readers to purchases.
“The challenge in the affiliate world is getting a unified view of data,” Del Grosso said.
ESI Media can now compare performance of similar articles, which becomes complicated when you have thousands. The BI tool also informs its content strategy.
“It’s a signal into what we should be producing and what is resonating,” he said.
An article with tons of traffic and no sales, for example, may not be considered as helpful for consumers as originally thought. ESI Media will also track overall user habits and behavior, map seasonal trends and build content plans based on those signals, he said.
The booming market for publisher-created affiliate content justifies the data unification investment, Del Grosso said.
“We are continually growing and investing,” he said. “Wherever we see green shoots is where we push for investment.”