Check Out DFW drives revenue with real estate branded content & local recommendations
Having a great content strategy combined with sponsorship revenue to support it leads to a winning website like Check Out DFW. On our Big Branded call this month Check Out DFW Co-Founders Jed Williams and David Arkin lent their expertise on how they run a first-of-its-kind online platform providing helpful real estate information, local recommendations and expert advice revolving around the Dallas Fort Worth area.
Both Williams and Arkin share an extensive local media background and launched Check Out DFW in November of 2021 because of their shared passion for entrepreneurship and community news.
The digital platform focuses on a unique reader that is looking to move to the area, settling in or already in the loop. Topics can include: neighborhood profiles, school ratings, community resources, local things to do, business development and real estate market trends.
In addition to the digital platform, Check Out DFW produces content distributed via social media and in its email newsletter. While they do occasional breaking news on things like new real estate or retail development that's being announced in their coverage communities, they are not a breaking news outfit like you would find in a traditional news organization. In fact, the majority of content is purpose-built to be more evergreen in nature, answering reader questions and addressing their jobs to be done via search and social over extended time periods.
"Our content should inspire action and learning with our readers. Otherwise, it's not delivering on our core promise," Williams said.
Those goals can be met through content as simple as informing parents where to take their kids for weekend activities to what neighborhood to move to in the dynamic Dallas Fort Worth real estate market. The content must help the reader do something, learn something, or be something they want to share or search for. Lots of traffic comes from search, which Williams and Arkin hope will increase over time through their strategic titling.
To reach revenue goals, the duo is focusing on branded and sponsored content as a large part of their business model. Check Out DFW believes in branded content because it solves real client problems, integrates brand voices as additive to the reader experience and extends the company's core value proposition.
"We do not have a paywall, we do not have a subscription, we don't have a membership program right now, we actually don't have any reader revenue sources today," Williams said. "We're entirely focused on helping our business partners succeed."
He says a successful business model can no longer be running basic ad campaigns and that branded content extends Check Out DFW's core value proposition to its clients. They're careful to clearly label sponsored content while also seamlessly integrating it into the online experience.
"We don't have pop ups, but we're also not burying this where it's not being seen," Williams said.
An example of sponsored content is Check Out DFW's verified experts program where a leader in the real estate industry or community member with some specific expertise is positioned as a local expert. Arkin works with the expert on content that provides value for readers interested in the Dallas Fort Worth community. The verified expert doesn't initially pay for the content, but they can be up-sold.
"Really, it's audience focused first, but once they get into the program they see the value that they're actually getting with it," Arkin said.
They also rely on home showcase stories and audience-driven content to stay competitive in the DFW market, where readers have so many choices to consume information.
Arkin also works with clients and experts to create short sponsored videos that can easily be produced via Zoom interviews. In a 20 minute interview, he says he can pull out four or five paid video segments efficiently and affordably. Many clients understand the appeal of video content, so this has been an effective way to position them as an expert, while creating engaging content that audiences want. The videos are also easily shared on social media, which clients desire. They use organic and paid social media to reach a larger audience for local advertisers.
The home spotlight articles aren't a traditional advertisement, but rather custom content created by working with realtors who can talk about why a particular home sold without making it seem like an ad. Custom content with brand awareness has been a winning combination for Check Out DFW.
"David and I have been very intentional and focused before launch and since launch about building a wide spectrum of partnerships," Williams said. "We have partnerships with realtors and other businesses, but we also have a number of partnerships with chambers and visitors bureaus and economic development centers and schools and parks."
They're also careful to maintain journalistic integrity with their content, while making sure it's engaging enough for their audience, and continually adding new topics of interest and expanding targeted distribution options.
If your local media outlet wants to create a lifestyle section or add new verticals to your site, reach out to the Meta Branded Content Project for advice and support.
The Meta Branded Content Project is designed through a strategic partnership between the Meta Journalism Project, Local Media Association and the Local Media Consortium to help facilitate additional growth, engagement, and revenue success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes.