Condé Nast is defining what commerce success looks like

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


At INMA, we try to bring you the interesting trends for the future — not simply what’s working now. One trend that we are seeing is the growth of commerce.

Is it double digits on the P&L? Maybe not.

Is it becoming meaningful revenue for those that invest well? Yes. 

So today that’s what we’re focusing on: how you can build commerce into your products in a meaningful way. I spoke to Patrick Gray, executive director of commerce at Condé Nast, for an in-depth discussion on how they have achieved success. In my next newsletter, I’ll use a case study from one of their brands to break down what this looks like from a product perspective.  

As always, please drop me a line if you have feedback or thoughts to share. I’m at

How Condé Nast is defining what commerce success looks like

I recently gotten to spend some time on Zoom with Patrick Gray, executive director of commerce at Condé Nast, talking about the work that he and his team do. Namely, they have increased revenue five fold in the last four years and are expecting double-digit growth again this year.  

Condé Nast commerce is built deeply into their site. They have a different approach to product reviews and lists such as The New York Times Wirecutter or New York Magazine’s Strategist. The following is a summarisation of our discussions. Next time, I will do a deep dive into one of their sites, GQ, as a practical case study for how all this comes together.

Why commerce? 

Digital media has historically sold impressions to advertisers who would hope consumers then go on to buy by clicking through to their site or visiting a physical store. “Commerce” takes one step away, reducing the purchase funnel by presenting consumers with buying options directly at time of purchase. 

A purchase funnel usually has four steps: awareness > consideration > conversion > purchase.

With commerce, the media organisation takes on the first steps of the funnel. Attracting to people to a certain product through editorial (or editorial adjacent content — we’ll talk about that later). Within that editorial or recommendation, the consumer usually has enough information to convert, demonstrated by them clicking through, leaving just the “selling” to the retailer.  

The standard business model for this is affiliate revenue where the media organisations receive a percentage of the sale. Most retailers now have a standard affiliate fee that they are willing to pay until you have significant, proven sales and are in a position to negotiate. Patrick wasn’t able to share exact percentages with me because their agreements are mostly bespoke.

Commerce has been around for a while but has been slow to get off the ground for a number of factors, including resistance to compromising editorial integrity, lack of expertise, and technical challenges.

But that is changing. A few organisations, including Condé Nast, have shown commerce can be presented in a way that protects editorial and brand integrity and can provide significant revenue without a high cost base.

Relevance for media 

What struck me most about the conversation with Patrick is that commerce isn’t just about money. It hits on so many of the topics that my colleagues and I talk about within INMA every day:

  • Service journalism: Condé Nast firmly believes their offering is in service to their readers. If a consumer reads about something they want, it’s almost counterproductive to make them leave the page to search elsewhere.

  • Brand engagement: Consumers do more than read. They are interacting with the brand, taking their recommendations, and often bringing physical products into their lives or making memories (like travel with Condé Nast Traveler).

  • Unifying vision: Commerce only works if it truly represents the vision across all departments.  

  • Sustainable revenue: This is low cost, which, if done well, can produce high margins.  

  • Individuals vs. brands: Condé Nast does well at leveraging their brands, and they recently launched a feature that brings readers closer to individuals with their editor picks on Vogue, Architectural Digest, and GQ.

  • Matrixed organisation: Media companies are now mostly working in a more matrixed style, which is essential for commerce to be effective.  

Condé Nast is a private company so doesn’t share many statistics, but Patrick told me that up to 50% of the audience of a brand interacts with commerce. This is huge. And shows it is highly linked to the core proposition. One thing Condé Nast feels strongly about is that almost everything is tested before going on the site. This isn’t a round-up of online finds; it’s genuine products their teams have tested and liked.

How does this relate to product? 

Building commerce is very much a product process, especially with multi-brand company such as Condé Nast. To start, the organisation must look at customer need and brand alignment.

In what space(s) does it make sense to play? Condé Nast has lifestyle brands, not news brands. However, the same principles can be applied to many of the news adjacent content: cooking, lifestyle, entertainment, and, as I wrote about last year, wine

Condé Nast has built commerce in product units that each brand can choose to use — or not. These can be editorial sections, swipeable images, look books, and more. My next newsletter will go through this in more detail.

Product awards

Some Condé Nast brands feature awards, which plays exceptionally well to the commerce strategy as well as lean into heavy brand engagement. Take a look at Allure Best of Beauty Awards and Allure Readers Choice. These are coveted awards for brands, beloved by readers, and now they produce an additional revenue stream by way of commerce revenue. 

In fact, the Allure Awards are so popular that a beauty chain store in the United States has an online section shopping only for products that have won an Allure award, which is part of a wider partnership (more here). Amazon also has an Allure Best of Beauty storefront.

The Allure Best of Beauty awards bring in commerce for the Allure brand.
The Allure Best of Beauty awards bring in commerce for the Allure brand.

The Allure Readers' Choice awards are important to brands and readers.
The Allure Readers' Choice awards are important to brands and readers.

Is commerce for owned and operated platforms?

Commerce works where there is strong relevance and trust in the brand. Most of the Condé Nast commerce happens on owned and operated platforms, which I’ll go into next time. They are experimenting more and more with a channel mix for both editorial and marketing content.  

The company uses different channel mixes for different brands, which includes social, Apple News, TikTok, and Pinterest. For example, Vogue Shopping has features in the daily editorial newsletter as well as a regular, specific newsletter franchises with “Affordable Fashion” on a Wednesday and “New Arrivals” on a Friday. And AD (Architectural Digest) lends itself to Pinterest, meaning Condé Nast makes some content pin-able.

Examples of Vogue commerce newsletters.
Examples of Vogue commerce newsletters.

We talked briefly about social commerce (which I wrote about recently here), but Patrick told me this is still at the early testing stages and is not something he considers a proven success at scale — yet.

What does the organisation structure look like? 

Commerce sits in the consumer revenue department. They see this as part of the user journey — if a user sees something they like on site and Condé Nast wants to facilitate that rather than creating a potential frustration where they then spend time looking for it online.  

Commerce works closely with editorial, too, but has its own teams for writing commerce-specific content. This helps keep brand alignment while ensuring there is no conflict of interest.

In total, Condé Nast has around 60 people working on commerce in the United States plus a team of around 20 in Europe. Teams are mostly brand specific, and size depends on the revenue opportunity.

At a department level, they are able to look at trends, share best practices, and work with product to build out solutions that work across all titles. They will test with an individual brand and leverage the portfolio for data, trends, and, of course, affiliate revenue terms.  

As commerce has grown, Condé Nast has hired in e-commerce skills. Patrick worked for Farfetch, and other members of the leadership group workled at Net-A-Porter and Gucci. This has allowed them to ramp up experience and learning across all sides of commerce much more quickly.   

For commerce to work, there is a highly matrixed structure. There is a group that meets every week to discuss commerce and individuals are encouraged to come with hypotheses they want to test: If we do X, it will have Y impact?

In this matrixed team are the following:

  • Product: focusing on optimised, high-performance templates that are built into the CMS.

  • Editors: define content strategies for their brands covering content, merchandise, audience. There are both producers and writers in this team. 

  • Data experts: including financial analysts, audience development, data analysts, and marketing

That’s great for a large organisation, but how can a smaller media organisation get started with commerce? 

All of the above is based on Condé Nast, a powerhouse of brands that has a dedicated team on commerce since 2019. But you don’t need this set of brands to start commerce. When I asked Patrick about this, he told me almost all publishers can start by adding affiliate links to their existing content. This is actually how Condé Nast started before they set up a dedicated team. 

There are a number of services that can help with affiliate links, such as an industry original Skimlinks. There are also other companies such as Stack Commerce which can help organisations scale their commerce.

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About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Jodie Hopperton, based in Los Angeles and lead for the INMA Product and Tech Initiative. Jodie will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media product.

This newsletter is a public face of the Product and Tech Initiative by INMA, outlined here. E-mail Jodie at with thoughts, suggestions, and questions. Sign up to our Slack channel.

About Jodie Hopperton

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