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Content meets commerce on members-only sites

As Thrillist acquires JackThreads, content and commerce are converging with access to exclusive offers. Is this the next wave of advertising?

Invitation-based, private sale sites like Gilt, Vente-privee, and Ideeli have become all the rage over the last two years as entrepreneurs and investors have looked for new ways to reach customers who have more disposable income than the recession-burdened masses.


On Thursday, Thrillist, a provider of daily e-mails highlighting cool things to do, see, and buy, announced it would acquire JackThreads, a guy-oriented shopping site that runs daily specials for invitation-only members. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. (Note: in this case, invitations are given to pretty much anyone who asks, and are used as more of a marketing tool and gateway to determining potential sale volumes.)

What's notable is that this deal shows a new way for content and commerce to converge in a manner that's not too intrusive (it's just an e-mail that you can delete) and also provides a new way for brands to advertise to a theoretically higher-qualified audience., the leading men's digital lifestyle publication, has acquired members-only online retailer, expanding Thrillist's footprint into e-commerce. Thrillist will now offer its user base exclusive access to JackThreads' private shopping community as an added benefit to subscribing.

There is some interesting psychology behind this approach too. Due to the way social media has affected nearly everything we do, exclusivity is one of the more appealing marketing/advertising tactics left.

Sites that have a haze of exclusivity make you feel like you are in special club receiving access to something special, generally content plus an insider deal, which remains a motivating factor for many consumers. Thrillist may not be your site of choice, but odds are there will be one sooner or later that will suit your interests.

The recent growth of member-only sites has proven successful and now more variations on the theme are starting to appear. Coupon sites like Groupon along with specialized newsletters such as Urbandaddy and MyDailyThread each put their own spin on how commerce meets content.

And while I'm not suggesting that this approach works for all sites--and certainly not for organizations that have to be clear about their biases (i.e. news sites), I do think there is real merit to this approach of marrying exclusive content with exclusive offers--even if the exclusivity is only surface-level.