Industry Insights
December 2020
by GSG

The Connection Between Commerce Content And Media Publishers

  • Historical Significance Of Commerce Content – Newspaper Coupons
  • From Coupons to Commerce Content in Print Media
  • Commerce Content and Publishing – a great match

Commerce Content has been part of magazines and newspapers long before the digital age started. The first Commerce Content pieces were in the form of coupons attached to cleverly written ad copies. Over time, Commerce Content has gotten more and more sophisticated, looking to serve the user in more ways and across more purchasing stages, starting to show up also in the form of shopping guides, inspiration pieces, comparisons, advertorials, cashback, and product reviews among others.

In this article, GSG’s intention was to take a look at the history of Commerce Content in media and publishing.

Historical Significance Of Commerce Content – Newspaper Coupons

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For most of the 1900s, newspapers, and magazines contained coupons, attached to brilliantly written copies describing products and services that could be beneficial for readers. Coupons gave a physical link to ads, long before the digital age.

Newspaper coupons could easily be cut out and redeemed at the nearest store. These coupons influenced the customers’ decision-making journey – it was a real incentive as well as a reminder for customers to take action and make a purchase.

Very early Coca Cola ad in a magazine, thought to be the first coupon in history (Approximately 1900s.)

One of the earliest examples of this is the 5¢ Coca Cola coupon from the 1900s, where every punch would give you a “High-Quality Full Value 5¢” Coca Cola

From Coupons to Commerce Content in Print Media

Coupons continued to be a part of printed media and even of pop culture throughout the decades. In the 50’s, the use of coupons empowered the science of newspaper advertising, as it gave agencies the chance to measure the success of individual ads and build more effective campaigns. We only need to go back to the heyday of advertising – when Madison Avenue ruled the world of communication – to see how closely linked coupons and newspaper advertising could be. The originators of advertising were often great writers and storytellers, and keen psychologists that truly believed not just in the power of selling, but also the science of selling too. 

In the 60’s, advertisers in search of new and improved methods used coupons to target their most valuable consumers: the stay-at-home housewives. For these women, their freedom laid in the future of mechanization and modernization (even when the concept of equality was still quite far away). Things like vacuum cleaners, cookers, washing machines, washing powder, and convenience food cost a lot of money even back in the day. Since these women were smart with their spending, coupons offered them a special price that made those big-ticket items and luxuries more affordable, and more rational for their heads. 

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Popular ads targeted at women from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, all with coupons attached.

At the same time, men were being targeted with status, and luxury-oriented offers on dream items like cars, technology, and fashion. These marketing pieces were less likely to offer price cuts and discounts but rather focused on providing further information or an additional value-added service. They represent early examples of Commerce Content as a helpful tool containing more than just advertising messages or price information and discounts for consumers.

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Popular ads targeted at men from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, all with coupons attached.

Those early Commerce Content pieces are great examples of how already in the print world, the content of news and magazines got mingled with Commerce to create a great experience for readers and for advertisers alike through innovative publishers and publishing formats. A mix of information, advertisement, and offerings or coupons created new ways of inspirational purchase incentives, where publishers could use their strengths in reach and trust built over years to help advertisers to sell their products.

Also, other forms of Commerce Content developed in the world of print media.

Advertorials were common in magazines of different verticals, as well as product reviews, inspiration pieces and even cashback offers.


Advertorials, inspiration pieces, and product reviews were popular content regularly included on printed media of every vertical and target group.

Commerce Content In The Digital Age

When newspapers and magazines started their digital offerings at the end of the last century, the main focus was on bringing their editorial sections online. Despite the historical, mature connection between Commerce Content and Media, this form of advertisement has mostly been relegated to a niche existence for them. While they continued to keep their readership informed with relevant shopping news, the latest developments in commercial segments, personal finance, and other topics of interest around personal consumption, the commercial potential was mainly realized through display advertising. 

Regardless, over the years publishers continued to build a great authority and trust among their readers for shopping-related topics through countless articles on many different facets and aspects. Opposed to specialized Commerce Content players though, for years most magazines and newspapers missed out on building up a sustainable commercial model for shopping-related content. 

Content from newspapers and magazines on shopping varies largely and sheds a light on different facets of shopping. News articles on the latest development at large retailers, information on the latest product releases, shopping tips & tricks, or product reviews are only some of its representations. 

Le Figaro covering the sales on retailer ASOS.

CNN covering shopping tips on the popular AirPods.

English The Sun reviewing the new MacBook Air for its readers.

German shares an upcoming expansion of retailer Zara into the beauty space.

Although most news portals or magazines are in the first instance not “shopping” or “commerce” publishers, they became strong authorities in these fields through the magnitude of their respective operations and their strive to cover the interests of their audiences. A Condé Nast-commissioned study found that its brands are 26% more likely to drive purchase intent than tech giants Facebook or Google. It turns out that readers not only value the content and information provided but that they are also putting great trust in those brands when it comes to guiding their shopping decisions. 

This trust also brings the need to create full transparency on the purpose of content provided to audiences by publishers. While editorial content in its essence is and needs to stay independent, it was always flanked by advertisements to finance the journalistic work. When content is not created independently by editors (e.g. for advertorials) the respective content needs a clear mark-up (e.g. “sponsored content”). Advertisement within editorial articles needs to be identifiable through markups or formats and Commerce Content needs distinct disclaimers if there is a commercial model attached. To clearly signal to readers what parts of a publisher’s content are editorial, and which elements are financing journalistic work is an important challenge when deepening the exploration of opportunities for Commerce Content. If implemented well, this can also serve as a great opportunity to further increase the trust of readers into a brand. 

Commerce Content and Publishing – a great match

Since the declining earnings potentials both from print and display advertising accelerates in parallel, Commerce Content, and its formats and opportunities in the digital space, become increasingly important for publishers. In the past, mainly specialized niche-publishers had leveraged the new opportunities, and this only to a certain extent. Given the historic connection and the natural authority of many news publishers and magazines in the field of shopping, Commerce Content is a natural extension of their digital offering gaining increasing relevance for their audiences. And as consumers turned to these same brands for shopping advice already in the age of print, they are happy to trust the brands they know, also for advice regarding shopping. A new era of shopping recommendation and Commerce Content is now just about to start allowing publishers to create a great offering for their audiences while improving their digital earning potentials, and the Global Savings Group aims to facilitate just that.

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