• Liz Hayes

Local media outlets secure $1 million in new revenue through Branded Content Project series



Since initiating a pilot program in October followed by a full launch in January, local media outlets working with The Branded Content Project have sold more than $1 million in content series sponsorships. Newspapers, radio stations and television stations are among the local organizations finding success with the turnkey sales solutions made available to LMC and LMA members and the larger industry thanks to funding from the Facebook Journalism Project.


“Hitting this significant achievement within a short period of time illustrates how effective branded content is for print, TV, radio and digital media outlets regardless of market size or location,” said General Manager Julia Campbell.


The Branded Content Project is a full-service branded content product development, content creation, education, distribution and monetization resource for local publishers. Media outlets can visit brandedcontentproject.com to preview ten weekly branded content series categories, such as Women’s Wellness or Home Sweet Home, in an online storefront. It's extended that opportunity to provide sponsored videos specifically for CTV and OTT formats. The Branded Content Project storefront, powered by Distributed Media Lab, provides a marketplace for local media companies to easily access branded content campaign creative assets, sales kits and distribution options, plus training and best practices.

"In today's cluttered marketing environment brands must deliver value first and sponsored content might just be the silver bullet to help marketers achieve this goal. More so, sponsored content is a game-changer for local media companies as they are uniquely positioned to help brands tell their story and build relationships with consumers. We're thrilled with the incredible success local publishers are recognizing with The Branded Content Project as they provide reader benefit, sponsor value, and drive incremental profits for their organizations," said Jared Merves, Distributed Media Lab's chief revenue officer.


When readers visit local news websites, they are looking for quality information to inform their lives. The Branded Content Project's ten sponsored content series deliver on this reader expectation with interesting lifestyle content and seasonal themes designed to engage specific audiences already on the news sites while creating powerful sponsorship opportunities designed to connect brands with their target audiences.


SUCCESS STORIES


“Content is the future of advertising and we have an incredibly valuable audience that responds and engages with content on our site already, providing an ideal environment for our advertisers to get their expertise in front of our readers,” said Chandler Downs, Seattle Times Content Studio’s account director of strategic partnerships & branded content.


The Seattle Times has sold three series: Active Aging, Cannabis Weekly and Finances FYI, securing two annuals and a six-month deal from three local advertisers. In addition to providing ten ready-to-publish lifestyle content series, The Branded Content Project produces sales collateral including product overviews, email scripts, marketing materials and sales decks highlighting the project’s mission to provide all the sales tools, training, and support to ensure success for publishers. Seattle Times Content Studio took advantage of all that was offered to secure new revenue.


“The premade collateral and resource websites were incredibly helpful and gave our team what they needed to empower them to get out and set appointments. The updates and check-ins kept us motivated,” she said.


Nicholas Griffin, digital sales manager at WTRF, a Nexstar TV station in Wheeling, West Virginia, appreciated the direction they received from the Branded Content Project about which clients to target and how to emphasize selling the audience to advertisers.


“I think it’s a new and exciting way to advertise without coming off like you are trying to sell a product or a service,” Griffin said. “I have always liked branded content, but these articles have just made it that much easier to spread the message.”


WTRF has sold three series: Home Sweet Home, Women’s Wellness and Active Aging, bringing in significant new revenue for the station.


Seattle Medium’s Editor and Publisher Chris Bennett targeted advertisers who he knew had the resources and desire to reach the masses with their crucial messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bennett was the first to secure a sponsorship through The Branded Content Project, selling Active Aging, followed by Parenting Today (twice), Go Green, Home Sweet Home and Finances FYI.


“Because of the branded content series we’ve already secured $125,000 in new revenue that we would not have sold otherwise,” Bennett said.


He’s found that his advertisers are very impressed by the turnkey lifestyle series and have oftentimes found themselves immersed in the content once they see it published.


“In addition, the branded content concept allowed us to bring something different to the advertiser other than traditional ad buys, and that allowed them to justify spending money with us because our competitors were not offering a similar product.”


Branded content has the power to engage audiences and increase revenue no matter the medium. Beasley Media Group, which owns 64 radio stations in large and medium markets across the country, is finding branded content to be an extremely valuable tactic for brands to reach their customers and target audiences because it leverages the power of storytelling. Beasley sold Home Sweet Home, securing a large annual contract.


“It’s all about the brand infusing its knowledge, history and subject matter expertise into engaging content that’s combined with the voice, reach and platform of trusted local media brands,” said Todd Handy, chief digital officer. “By partnering with local media companies, brands expand their digital marketing offering in a unique manner which can’t be replicated with traditional banner ads, SEM or other transactional advertising methods.”


Once a sales force becomes engaged with a product, there is no telling how far they can go. Great West Digital, has impressively sold 19 lifestyle series from The Branded Content Project in just two months.


“We’ve managed to build a new revenue stream for ourselves here,” said Director of Digital Willy Grant. “In doing this, I think that some of our reps have gotten some confidence in the product, which is helping them to build sales as well. We’re very excited we’ve gone down this road and we’re looking at how we can build on it for 2021,” she said.


Whether the medium is print, television, radio or digital only, branded content is a solution that works across the gamut of local media organizations. Bob Conrad, publisher and editor of ThisisReno.com has found success securing a sponsor for Cannabis Weekly.


"Branded content is an excellent option for sites such as ours for added monetization. In addition, the canned packages take the work off the client but still gets their brand and messaging our to news audiences in a mutually beneficial way," he said.


Local media outlets are invited to take advantage of all that The Branded Content Project has to offer. It offers shared services, training, tools and technology to media organizations interested in creating or growing a branded content initiative. Everything is designed to build deep connections between brands and their target audiences, triggering a new revenue stream.


“We’re here to help all publishers and don’t want anyone to miss out on this unique opportunity. Advertisers will love harnessing the power of your brand-safe, fraud-free, engaged audiences and you’ll love the deepened relationships with your clients and additional earnings,” said Director of Strategy Liz Hayes.


The Branded Content Project was designed through a strategic partnership between the Local Media Association, the Local Media Consortium and the Facebook Journalism Project to help facilitate additional growth, engagement and success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes through ready-to-sell strategic content products and industry sales education programs.


These series and their revenue potential are available for local media companies of all shapes and sizes. Get involved by contacting General Manager Julia Campbell at julia@brandedcontentproject.com or Director or Strategy Liz Hayes at liz@brandedcontentproject.com.



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