Member Brief No. 3: The Attention Stack

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Successful commerce companies and vertical brands want to know how to generate authentic happiness with their customers. A customer kept > a customer gained. The attention stack is a buzz phrase that you’ll hear quite a bit about as brands try to solidify their standing in a quickly evolving market.

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Issue No. 248: The nine boxes

On: “The End is Already Here” by @LukeOneil47

For quite sometime, I was fascinated by the storm that is digital media. If Jonah Peretti is scared, so is just about everyone else. Buying, selling, shifting, moving, falling, rising – the tectonic plates beneath the foundation of digital media are moving ever faster. Only visionaries capable of playing three dimensional chest will remain on the sturdy ground. Count Jessica Lessin as one of them.

After a three-year stint in and around the digital media space, I have seen enough to know that executives must be forward-thinking to survive this whirlwind. I know some who are, I know many who are not. So O’Neil’s words strike me because many will read them today after reading Peretti’s words on Buzzfeed’s future. Here’s a striking para from O’Neil’s essay:

Dailies who aren’t already well ahead of the game in terms of reverting back to subscription models, or of significant enough national prominence, or don’t find their own relatively benevolent billionaire owner, will continue to either be neutered or flattened out by conglomerates into content distributors. The ones that don’t will buy some time, but will ultimately become vanity projects read only by people wealthy enough to remain interested in the superficial comings and goings of other wealthy people.

To Luke’s point,the remedies that I envisioned were tactical departure for most in the media space (and very difficult to execute). These were the five points on my whiteboard:

  1. Build a premium subscription product for our most loyal. Do not ignore this advice, bosses. Recurring revenue is something that we can build upon.
  2. Let’s treat news like a commodity but let’s treat our platform as a brand. This means avoid discounts or promotions. It also means that we must think like a CMO.
  3. Direct-to-consumer commerce and native advertising partnerships should be influenced by affiliate data. Affiliate revenue is a treasure trove of data.
  4. Let’s measure success, not in DAU or MAU but in affiliate / D2C commerce conversion. What are eyes without the ability to influence the mind (i.e. cart conversions)?
  5. Let’s build a community, not a readership. Communities persist, readerships do not.
Read Neiman Lab’s 2018 predictions in journalism, including Luke O’Neil’s “The End is Already Here.
This is just my opinion. – @Web Smith


See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 241: Hodinkee Launches A Store

Since its launch in 2008, Hodinkee has been something of an industry trailblazer: initially conceived as a blog covering the watch industry with a mix of news and in-depth features, it launched at a time when“the entire watch industry seemed almost afraid of the internet,” says Pulvirent. Today, investors include John Mayer, Ashton Kutcher and Google Ventures. In 2012, it added an e-commerce platform in order to amplify commercial opportunities, and the site now collaborates on limited edition pieces with brands such as Vacheron Constantin and TAG Heuer. Hodinkee reported year-on-year growth of 60 percent last year, with 75 percent year-to-date growth for 2017.

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 216: BoF Discusses Columbus and Mall Retail


Inspired by 2PM


You can read more here [paywall]. Though, the ideas have already been discussed ad infinitum here.

The idea for this piece was derived from this thread of tweets and a conversation with Chantal Fernandez, the “Senior Editorial Accomplice” at Business of Fashion.

It was well-written by Lauren Sherman, New York’s Editor, after a 24 hour trip to Columbus and a great conversation with Kenny McDonald who heads economic development for America’s 12th largest city.

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 212: Fashion’s Duopoly

A last word: part anecdotal, part data-driven

Summer of 2016, I was sitting in the conference room of Cambridge’s Founder Collective when I was first asked the question: what opportunity aren’t we seeing? I explained that we will need to solve a retail infrastructure problem in exurban areas of American cities. If we don’t plan on putting millions of square feet of suburban retail space to work, communities will suffer and so will residential property values, tax revenues, school funding, and on, and on.

For veteran readers of 2PM, this past weekend’s economic banter was a long time coming.

Michael Corkery: Is American retail at an historic tipping point?

Paul Krugman: Why don’t all jobs matter?

Hayley Peterson: Retail job apocalypse is creating a ‘rolling crisis’

The intent of 2PM is to help this community of readers do their jobs better by highlighting or analyzing the best information. Observing, measuring, or commenting on market-shifts that can influence how you do your job. Whether that role is in online publishing, commerce, or brand, or data science – there’s something for most folks to latch onto.Between issues 1 and 180, I occasionally spent time pointing to articles, excerpts, charts, or trusted opinions on what seemed to be markers for a likelihood of a fast retail collapse.

This loss spans retail jobs, retail storefronts, and the entire suburban commercial developments that depend on a healthy ecosystem of service workers, commerce, and consumers. We were overdue for a drastic market correction but this one seemed to have caught many experts off guard. On a positive note, this is how great opportunities present themselves.This past weekend two older Twitter threads of mine began to make the rounds:

First thread (January 17, 2017): The U.S. has lost 20,000+ retail jobs in the last month. Still not a hot button political issue.

Second thread (January 4, 2017): Everyone writes about eCommerce altering retail but no one writes about how it will change suburban areas w/ concentrated retail employment.

I invite you to follow the above links as they provide commentary by much smarter folks. Chatter on the matter is at critical mass, though I don’t agree with some of it. If you’re interested in why I disagree with the sociopolitical angle by Krugman, just reply to this email. I’d love to discuss. – @web
See more of the issue here.

Issue. No 201: Murmurs at Shoptalk.

Last Word: What’s after search?

A16Z’s Benedict Evans wrote a blog that sticks with me every day. In it, he expounded on an earlier tweet: Amazon is Google for products, but we have no Facebook for products. He went on to write:

Amazon in particular and eCommerce in general is good at search. Amazon, very obviously, is Google for products. It’s good at giving you the best-seller you’ve heard of or the water filter for your fridge (the long tail). It’s not so good at the things in the middle. Amazon is great at selling you what’s on the table in the front of the bookshop, and at selling one copy a year of a million or so obscure titles, but it’s not very good at showing you what’s on the shelves at the back of the bookshop.

At 2017’s Shoptalk, the future of eCommerce is the height of the conversation and the question remains. In an economy where eCommerce site builds have been commoditized by Big Commerce, Shopify, and Demandware and SEO is cheaper than ever, what comes after commerce by search?

The answer is discovery. The internet is optimized for direct-response advertising and search engine marketing but as those tools became commonplace, their returns diminished. Discovery-equipped eCommerce sites will play a major role in the future of online retail. Whereas Amazon is great for shopping for what you *know* that you want, we have no “Facebook for eCommerce.”

In my recent conversation with Erica Matthews, Alibaba’s Head of Corporate Relations, and Liyan Chen, we discussed what most American consumers don’t yet understand about the shopping vs. buying contrasts. Alibaba continues to eclipse impossibility in the east by digitizing the sensational social experience of shopping.

So while Benedict Evans is correct in his assessment that America doesn’t have a Facebook of eCommerce, Alibaba has served that role well, for China, from their Hangzhou headquarters.

Some of the smartest young, eCommerce companies are enabling consumer discovery, aiming to own the sales funnel from start to finish. Stateside, that race is not a foregone conclusion. But it would be smart to look east if you want to know how it’s done.

See more of the issue here.