Trend Alert: Rec Room by Vice
Trend Alert introduces you to the latest trends that are impacting the daily lives of 16-24s.
The era of sponcon and fake review bots has made an already cynical generation of young people even more uncertain about which product recommendations they can trust. Our research consistently shows they trust their friends and families far more than they trust review sites, blogs or influencers. This poses a challenge not only for brands aiming to attract more Gen Z customers, but also for publishers and content creators looking to monetise their work through sponsored posts and affiliate revenue.
Youth media brand Vice has taken an interesting approach to affiliate content, which goes against the standard wisdom that it should blend in as much as possible with the non-sponsored posts – essentially, wedging affiliate links and product tips within articles the publisher would be posting anyway. Instead, Vice has done the opposite, creating a specific franchise for their affiliate content and announcing their plans openly and proudly to their audience.
The new franchise, Rec Room, is described as “VICE’s shopping, reviews, and recommendations site.” The concept is for the team behind Rec Room to give honest reviews and recommendations of products they genuinely love, with a particular focus on quirky items that “show some personality. They are open about the fact that each article will include affiliate links, and claim that “no brand or retailer can pay us to be included in these articles.” This refreshingly honest approach appeals to Gen Z’s desire for transparency.
The question is: will Vice be able to make ends meet through affiliate content, without taking upfront payments from brands? We’ll find out in time whether Rec Room is built to last, but already other publishers have seen success with similar projects aimed at older consumers. For example, New York Magazine launched The Strategist with the same concept as Rec Room in 2016, and within a year had seen 121% affiliate revenue growth. These sites set a standard for honest recommendations that generate trust and loyalty among their audience, and should be a source of inspiration for other media brands looking to drive revenue in a tough time for the online publishing industry.
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