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“A brand new way to shop”: The Independent launches service that keeps readers on site

UK news publisher, The Independent, is doubling down on its eCommerce operations via a partnership with checkout specialist Bolt. A significant rationale behind the collaboration is to keep readers within the Independent’s own ecosystem rather than lose them at point-of-sale.

UK news publisher, The Independent, has launched a new, integrated shopping service that allows readers to purchase products from editorial reviews on The Independent website, without being linked out to external sites.

As part of the initiative, the publisher has partnered with checkout technology company Bolt, who earlier this year raised $355 million in a Series E round managed by BlackRock. Bolt is led by CEO Maju Kuruvilla, a former Amazon exec, and the company’s decentralized tech allows consumers to checkout quickly “without the needless restrictions that Amazon, Shopify and Stripe use to trap people in their ecosystems”. 

The Independent – which in its latest results registered its fifth straight year of revenue and operating profit growth – has invested significantly in its eCommerce operations recently. According to the publisher, sponsored deals with partner brands including Amazon Prime, Samsung and Sky, resulted in growth of 43% from transactional revenues last year, with forecast revenue growth of 41% for FY21/22.

The Independent’s new eCommerce process works as follows:

  • Readers discover products via IndyBest, The publisher’s dedicated storefront which provides product reviews, trend round-ups, and buying guides.
  • Consumers add available items to their cart and complete their purchases through a native checkout experience on The Independent.
  • Bolt Checkout Everywhere works behind the scenes with the merchant, who receives the order and ships it to the reader (dropship model), all without leaving the publisher’s website.

eCommerce is key for The Independent, and we see ‘storyselling’ – tying editorial reviews into shopping – as the future. By powering the shop with Bolt, we can let our readers make the most of our editorial content without leaving The Independent.

Sara Recalcati, Head of Affiliates and eCommerce, The Independent

It comes at a time that whilst affiliate marketing continues to bring in significant revenue for publishers – US affiliate marketing alone grew to $9Bn in 2021 – a major challenge is that readers are taken off-site and directed to third-party websites, with considerable readership churn.

This year, Vogue Scandinavia partnered with Spotin in a bid to drive ecomm sales yet also keep its traffic within its own site. In an interview, Spotin’s Founder and CEO, Kristoffer Karlsson, told WNIP that keeping readers within a publisher’s website is vital, “You have to ask why are audiences on a publisher’s website? It’s because they value the content discovery. By keeping traffic on your own site it becomes far more valuable.”