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  • Writer's pictureLiz Hayes

How to create & monetize branded commerce content

A newspaper with a calculator on it

Developing a commerce content strategy may seem like a daunting task for publishers, but when you understand the basics, it can be another tool in your toolbox to drive revenue for your organization.

On January's Big Branded Call, Brand Development Consultant Dana Holmes joined the Branded Content Project to explain how publishers can create compelling branded commerce content that audiences will notice.

Branded commerce content is a collaboration between a media publisher and a brand that promotes products and services that can be purchased online through affiliate links. Publishers can earn a share of conversions based on KPIs like sales, clicks and sign-ups.

"You create and share a monetized link, and you do that by partnering with an affiliate network and then once that link is published, your customer - the readers - will click on it and convert, and that link documents the conversion so that in the end, you get a commission for getting that client a sale," Holmes said.

Holmes recommends testing commerce content by using an affiliate program like Amazon Associates. This is a great place to test because Amazon Associates has an incredible library of products. To scale, you can set up one or more affiliate networks, while carefully choosing which brands to work with.

A graphic with types of branded content commerce

"You'll sign up with more affiliate networks, and those are platforms that work with tons of different companies and it make it easy for you to create monetized links to pop into your content so that you can make more revenue off of these relationships than with Amazon," Holmes said.

The next step is to build relationships with brands that align the most with your news organization. Holmes says if you work well with a brand currently and they align with your organization, you'll naturally get more clicks and sales. According to Authority Hacker, 81 percent of brands use affiliate networks to boost brand awareness and drive sales.

Another option is to create branded content on behalf of a client for an upfront fee which can also generate affiliate revenue. The KPIs may veer from the traditional clicks and sales to an advertiser wanting to align their brand with yours to generate more traffic and build a larger audience.

You have several options for placing branded commerce content: brand inserts, branded articles, social media, newsletters, and anywhere else you have a built-in audience. Holmes recommends steering clear of highly regulated industries and products or services that may pose a conflict of interest.

A graphic explaining pre-planning pillars

Holmes uses a combination of audience-focused questions and client-focused questions when brainstorming branded commerce content proposals. Just like with any effective branded content campaign, you have to think like the customer when determining content and be sure you're clear on your client's objectives.

"Identify how big you want this campaign to be, and also top potential topics," Holmes said. "If it's in summer, you don't want it to be about snowboarding, for example. Also, what types of content will convert best for this type of client," she asked.

Looking back at your best-performing editorial content is a great place to start your research. Also keep in mind how much you can take on as a department, what it will take to produce the campaign, and which topics serve your audience the most. Holmes uses keywords strategically to drive more traffic and land higher on search results pages.

"I like to use Google Keyword Planner. It's pretty easy to see peaks and valleys for keywords and then you can look it up using an incognito window on Google to see if other companies like yours are covering this topic," Holmes said.

Finally, always make sure you're using appropriate disclaimers, clearly marking your branded commerce content as sponsored.

Dana shared these examples of branded commerce content so you can get a better idea of how this can work for you:

Branded insert (paid placement): 

Branded commerce articles: 

Branded social: 

Want to join the next Big Branded Call? We meet the third Wednesday of the month bringing local media professionals together to learn the latest in branded content strategy. Sign up here!


The Meta Branded Content Project is designed through a strategic partnership between the Local Media Association, the Local Media Consortium, and the Meta Journalism Project to help facilitate additional growth, engagement, and revenue success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes.

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