Ben Lerer on the Line Between Commerce and Credibility

By Trevor Gilbert , written on August 16, 2012

From The News Desk

Tonight at the fireside chat between Sarah Lacy and Thrillist founder and CEO Ben Lerer, Lerer opined on the line between being a commercial product and an editorial product.

For those that aren't familiar with Thrillist's business model, the company has two revenue streams. On the one side, there is the commerce angle, which provides the bulk of Thrillist's money. On the other side, Thrillist is a media company which provides quality content for readers, but which brings in less revenue.

When asked which type of company Thrillist is -- media or commerce -- Lerer shared that he sees the company as media first, but which "has built the infrastructure to have a scalable commerce business" to provide a better experience for readers.

However, while the experience may look better for users, from the traditional perspective of media companies the business quickly enters an ethically grey area. If the company features merchandise in one post that the staff finds interesting, and right next to the post is a sponsored item, it could confuse users and create conflicts of interest.

Of course, Lerer is aware of the potential for confusion, but he quickly brushed it off, saying, "Why don’t we give them something good and try to make money off of the good thing."

But beyond that, the company has made moves to address any potential conflicts. "We’re super transparent about it," says Lerer. "Transparent enough that the commerce is happening on a completely different platform. The more time we spend integrating the really doesn’t matter, as long as what you’re doing is good."

Which brings the entire business model home: If the content is good, the readers don't care if it's paid for or if it is a unsponsored opinion. And for a media company, the overarching goal is to provide quality content for readers.

[Continue watching the fireside chat with Ben Lerer here]