Late last year, Salon began an “experiment” in selling items like martini shakers, shower-rings and creepy baby head candles (pictured) through its website. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, has attempted to increase revenue by organizing a wine club in 2008 (along with helpful guides on how to, for example, pronounce the names of some of these gosh-durned fancy wines) and, more recently, creating travel packages inspired by its coverage. Then there’s the New York Times, which has launched its own wine club. Not to be left out, Salon also has a wine club — and a book club — in the works.
Such online stores and clubs have not, typically, proven especially lucrative. One notable exception being Monocle magazine, which was able to pay for a Hong Kong bureau through the sale of tote bags. Plus, who doesn’t know someone who owns a mug purchased from The Onion‘s online store?
Other online and print publications are looking to raising subscription prices (or erecting pay walls), or looking to charitable foundations as a means of taking in additional funding.
The balance, then, lies in making sure that one’s merchandise or the foundation with which a publication aligns oneself makes sense for the brand and its readership. Adds Imtiaz Patel, WSJ’s vice president of group sales and strategy: “You don’t want to turn yourself from a content source to a shopping mall. You’ll destroy your brand.”