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  • Writer's pictureLiz Hayes

How nonprofit news organization The Texas Tribune monetizes branded content


For May's Big Branded Call, the Branded Content Project reached out to The Texas Tribune's April Brumley Hinkle, chief revenue officer, to come on and share how the nonprofit news organization approaches branded content.


But first she shared how she sees the state of Texas, as a rapidly growing economic powerhouse ripe with opportunity.


"Doesn't matter if you're from Dallas or Denton or Dime Box - we all care about the big issues, challenges and opportunities," she said. "Public and higher education, healthcare, immigration, criminal justice, energy, the environment, infrastructure, and our economy."


The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, award-winning news organization, with a very diverse revenue business model. According to Brumley Hinkle, from 2009 until the present, the newspaper has earned more than $130 million to support its ambitious newsroom.

"Our funding comes from foundations, high net worth individuals, members and corporations," she said. "We really believed in this model from the very start for success and long term sustainability."


About ten years ago, the publication created a sister site called TribTalk which became a home for thought leaders and influential organizations, while giving space to sponsored content posts. In order to drive more traffic, the team decided to move paid posts to the main site after a short time.


Brumley Hinkle says embracing sponsored content on the main site gave sponsors the exposure and engagement they wanted while giving thought-leading organizations the opportunity to share their complex messaging in a robust way. All paid posts are clearly labeled, while being in line with editorial content standards.

The content management system that builds the post also builds native advertising units that are seen in rotation on the Tribune's homepage for a 2 week period and also on story pages. It also builds a native ad unit on our e-newsletters, and a social graphic.


"In 2023 we published 50 paid posts, representing $150,000, and I've estimated since the time we started in 2009, that branded content has provided $1.4 million dollars to fund the Texas Tribune," she said.


In addition to sponsored articles, the team utilizes interactive formats, infographics, e-books, long and short-form videos and events as part of their advertising strategy. Sponsors and organizations provide all of the elements after receiving a detailed document with requirements to publish a paid post. The Tribune then tailors and customizes as needed.


Because selling branded content is different from traditional advertising, Brumley Hinkle suggests asking prospects and sponsors about their goals and initiatives and to always be listening and adapting to needs.


"I'm always asking about assets as well, because the more you listen, the more you can capture. You know, we have this video or we have this audio, or about to make this big announcement. Those all say to me, 'paid post, paid post, paid post.' Most sponsors will incorporate a paid post in a campaign."


Want to be a part of the next Big Branded Call? We meet on the third Wednesday of the month. Register for free here!

 

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.

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