SXSW 2015: E-Commerce Is The New Publishing

With the total democratization of ecommerce, Rachel Youens of Wanelo believes online retailers should look to publishing for advice. When online media first appeared and proliferated, tools lowered the entry barrier to effectively zero. Blogs enabled content creation to be so easy that for awhile, it became almost impossible not to be a publisher.

The downside was that there were too many places to consume content. Blogs diffused across the Internet, and didn’t consolidate well. Social media changed that — instead of an XML or RSS feed, social feeds like Twitter enable a curated stream of media. This has led to some scaled success, like BuzzFeed, and some consolidation. Whatever the media revolution was, it is no longer that easy to become a publisher.

Youens thinks ecommerce is following a similar trajectory. Tools like Etsy and Shopify have enabled a revolution, allowing a massive proliferation of small online retailers. At the same time, it is difficult to scale such an industry. This is why platforms like Amazon, Pinterest and Polyvore — so-called shopping search engines — are gaining in popularity. Successful ecommerce businesses are creating different profiles on each site, much like publishers did with social platforms during the second phase of the media revolution.

The tipping point, Youens believes, has arrived. In order to stay ahead of the curve, ecommerce needs to adapt to become part of the new ecosystem — robust feeds, native platform integration, accessible messaging, as consolidation won’t be far behind.