Diana Kelter
Diana is a Senior Trend Analyst at Mintel. She investigates how cultural, lifestyle and technology shifts take shape across sectors and leverages Mintel data across trend observations.

Whether it’s what people are buying, listening to, or eating, the options are endless and continue to expand. This is leaving brands with a complex problem: choices continue to grow, while attention spans decrease. Nearly three-quarters of US consumers agree unlimited data is a must-have in today’s world, according to Mintel research on consumer digital trends. This speaks to the sheer amount of content consumers are taking in at any time. It might sound counterintuitive that traditional longer-form content is capturing consumer attention, but that’s exactly the trend we’re seeing.

Media brands become retailers

In October 2019, The Chernin Media Group invested $83 million into the food and lifestyle website Food52, gaining a majority stake in the company. Food52 primarily started as a content hub for food recipes, stories and more, but in recent years the brand has expanded into e-commerce with the company launching a private label brand known as Five Two in 2018.

Food52 has seen continued success with e-commerce, and revenue from the online shop accounts for 75% of the sites total revenue. The success the brand is having in e-commerce directly connects back to the website’s foundation, a resource for people to discover, learn and connect about their love of all things food with a gradually expanded focus on various lifestyle topics. The attention Food52 co-founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs have placed on listening to their community has led to the creation of products people are compelled to buy. The investment from The Chernin Media Group is directly going toward retail, with the company announcing hopes to create a brick-and-mortar storefront, but it’s also being used to double down on content. For retailers, media sites becoming retailers clearly creates another competitive threat they need to keep their eye on, but it’s a strategy we’ve seen various direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands embrace.

Nearly three-quarters of US consumers agree unlimited data is a must-have in today’s world, according to Mintel research.

Content beyond an Instagram post

The majority of DTC brands rely on Instagram as a way to drive traffic and sales, but the e-commerce success of a media site such as Food52 prioritizes traditional long-form content connects with another trend that has taken shape in the DTC space. Glossier, the DTC beauty company, first started with the CEO creating a beauty website known as Into the Gloss and Outdoor Voices, an activewear brand, recently launched an online content hub known as The Recreationalist. While consumers are overwhelmed by content with minimal attention available, they find community valuable and will take time to engage with its content in various forms and in return trust the products they sell.

How do brands find the right balance?

The end goal is not for legacy retailers to become media hubs – and vice versa. Rather, it serves as a reminder that consumers are looking at everything from a new value lens. Convenience, price, and habits are elements of consumer behavior that every brand and media outlet has traditionally relied on for continued growth. However, the modern consumer is changing that model. In the fashion category, fast-fashion brands such as Forever21 fall into bankruptcy while Everlane, a brand with a clear value-driven mission but with higher prices, is seeing continued growth. The same mindset is occurring in the realm of content – consumers are willing to spend more time with content that matters and offers clear value.

Food52 isn’t successful because they know more about food than any other food site, they’re successful because they‘ve always put their community first and have treated their business like a dinner table where people want to be present and savor.