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  • Writer's pictureLiz Hayes

Publishers focused on cannabis content marketing have revenue rollin' in

In markets where recreational marijuana is legal, local media companies are taking advantage of the sales opportunity by providing the content and distribution that dispensaries and cannabis brands need to educate and inform the public about their products.

Marketing rules and regulations surrounding cannabis are murky, at best, and at the federal level, marijuana is still illegal. Even in states where medical and recreational marijuana is legal, there are certain things that are restricted - like advertising on social media. However, local publishers have found a way to help cannabis brands and dispensaries advertise using content marketing while generating high-margin revenue for their companies and a return on investment for their clients.

The Branded Content Project's Cannabis Weekly, a lifestyle series covering interesting facts and cannabis lifestyle topics, is highly engaging content that cannabis brands are interested in aligning with and key audiences are paying attention to. Lots of companies have used Cannabis Weekly as a jumping off point into cannabis content marketing.

Curt Jacobi, strategic business development director at McClatchy, says the company quickly and successfully sold Cannabis Weekly in its California markets, which he boils down to three things: it was a very ripe vertical for the picking, they had specific prospects to present it to, and there was great value in the sales package.

"Because it was an unknown for us, where we wanted to add the value was we actually included the sponsor in our promotional materials. So when you look at Sacramento Bee, we included clients in all the marketing we're doing to get readers and consumers to the widget itself," Jacobi said.

"The Cannabis Weekly collection is being targeted just like an ad would be targeted to somebody," he said. "We are trying to get people to see the extreme value in us creating the content. It just increases the stickiness of the program."

In order to offer even more value, McClatchy includes a custom article from the advertiser in the fourth card of the collection. One cannabis sponsor already had an active, robust blog that the team easily plugged into and promoted in the collection.

McClatchy is also attracting advertisers by running ads in print, all of their owned and operated distribution channels and newsletters. Because of this, McClatchy is now targeting other markets, where recreational marijuana is legal too.

Great West Media, a group of small Canadian newspapers, has had great success with Cannabis Weekly because they recognized they could provide a solution for advertisers, said Willy Grant, director of digital.

"Cannabis Weekly was a huge one for us because cannabis advertising is very limited in Canada. You can't do any Google ads, you can't do any Facebook ads, most programmatic won't touch us, so that leaves our owned and operated," Grant said.

Grant says Great West launched Cannabis Weekly across all of its sites, which, in addition to many other active Branded Content Project turnkey programs, has been a huge success for them. One client, Revive Cannabis, reported that the company increased walk-in traffic by about 50% and traffic that is related to health and wellness versus just recreational use.

"We're not a big company by any means so this is really a game-changer on the revenue front. Having something like this in your toolbox when you're out there talking to advertisers is really great because it is out of the box and it can be highly customizable. It's just been a great, tremendous success for us," she said.

Whether the medium is print, television, radio or digital-only, cannabis-focused branded content is a solution that works across the gamut of local media organizations. Bob Conrad, publisher and editor of has also 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.

Shaw Media, a newspaper publisher in Illinois, has successfully launched its own cannabis program, creating custom content educating its audience on the benefits of marijuana, like the client intended.

Evie Kevish, project manager at Shaw Media Marketing, says she works with the cannabis client to create custom content that includes two monthly articles published online and in print and in a morning newsletter, plus a branding takeover on the site.

"My goal is to help them with brand awareness and education on using cannabis as an alternative to pharmaceuticals," she said. "I am able to use my expertise to help the dispensary cultivate engaging topics to educate our audiences with information to help them understand the medicinal uses and true power of this plant."

The Seattle Times has also sold Cannabis Weekly at a premium, since cannabis is a hot commodity in the state of Washington.

"We had a lot of people interested in cannabis," said Chandler Downs, director of strategic and branded content partnerships at The Seattle Times Content Studio. "We rolled out Cannabis Monthly, so we wanted to be a little more bit selective about the content and make it a little more focused on the Pacific Northwest," she said.

Making those small changes provided the opportunity for the advertiser to also incorporate their own custom content. They felt that monthly articles were the perfect cadence so their team could customize or be more selective of what was being published.

Whether you use The Branded Content Project's Cannabis Weekly as is, customize it, or create your very own cannabis-focused marketing program - if you have recreational marijuana legalized in any of your markets - you should be taking advantage of the large revenue generating opportunity that this vertical provides.

You can start running Cannabis Weekly on your websites today with no risk and no cost until you sell it. If you are interested in cashing in on this growing vertical email


The Branded Content Project is 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 revenue success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes.

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