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  • Writer's pictureThe Branded Content Project

The Seattle Medium's Chris Bennett on strategies that led to massive revenue growth

Graphic with Chris B. Bennett of The Seattle Medium

CEO and publisher of The Seattle Medium, Chris B. Bennett, understands the revenue growth potential of branded content. Since working with The Branded Content Project over the last few years, his local media organization has generated over $1,000,000 in branded content sales. He shares what he's learned about the power of content marketing, how he works with advertisers, and why annual contracts are helping his business grow.

Packaging Strategy: Throw in the kitchen sink

Chris B. Bennett: What I like about branded content is that it is a premium offering and it is critical to the success of your overall branded content strategy that you treat it as such. Many times, we are all trying to put together packages and proposals that include discounts and added-value items in an effort to wooo the advertiser. You all know the concept, throw everything at them but the kitchen sink. But how we view it from a branded content perspective is that we are only offering the kitchen sink, meaning that we’re not doing all the extra things that we aren’t good at, we are sticking with the core of what we do.

Everything you do in a kitchen somehow is connected to the sink. When you begin to prep food you’re at the sink, when you’re in the middle of cooking you're at the sink, when you finished and are ready to clean up, guess what - you’re at the sink. The one thing that is always constant in the kitchen is the sink. There aren’t any new gadgets, connections, manuals to read or YouTube videos to show you how to use them. You might change the look a little bit for vanity purposes, and that is what we are doing with branded content. Most of us are already doing some type of branded content already, we just have not thought about it in such a way that enables us to leverage the true value that it can provide for our individual companies.


Pricing Strategy: Triple your cost

C.B.: As it relates to pricing, I start off by calculating the cost of all my resources for the campaign, and then I triple that cost to come up with my initial pricing assessment. If it’s too low I raise it, and by the way for our branded content offerings we already have a minimum price in place. If it’s too high, we take that under advisement. If I have $4,500 in cost per month, at a minimum that offering is going to price out around $15,000 per month. I forgot to mention that I only deal in whole thousands when I’m calculating price, so I always round up.


Now this approach might seem a little ambitious, but if you have the right package in place based upon what you do well the advertisers will see the value and are willing to pay it. Two things just recently happened to me I had an advertiser actually tell me that I wasn’t charging enough for our branded content offering and they told me to resend them the same proposal with a higher price!


The second thing, I pitched a branded content package to an advertiser through their ad agency and the ad agency blocked it for an entire year. Because we were able to produce better results than other people in our marketplace, the advertiser had reached out to me directly for a meeting and I was able to pitch the package to them directly. Guess what? They loved the concept and idea and it lined up with what they were trying to do, and she was like I wished I had known about this last year. She came back a few weeks later and spent nearly four times the amount of money they were going to spend with me in 2023.


How has branded content been a stabilizing force for your media company?


C.B.: We have not had annual contracts in place for many years now. We have long-term advertisers that have been doing business with us, but they literally, for all intents and purposes, are day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month. But now through branded content we have a number of annual contracts and long-term contracts in place, and that has really allowed us to have some stability in our business, especially through COVID-19. We can now properly plan budgets, address personnel issues, and comfortably provide raises and bonuses because we have a better sense of forecasting that’s not based on assuming that these advertisers will continue doing business with us.

How is branded content creating new business with new and old advertisers?


C.B.: We went into branded content with an aspirational goal of getting an additional $10,000 per month in revenue. Today, we have one client who spends much more than that on an annual contract.


Our first branded content client was a client that we had been trying to do business with us for the better part of ten years. We pitched everything at them with no success. But because of our branded content offering they started off spending $3,500 per month – which we were just trying to kick the tires and see how people would embrace it. The results and the relationship that we built with the client over the last few years helped us generate over $100,000 in business from this client last year, and most of that money came outside of their branded content package, but the relationship started with branded content and spread into other areas and internal referrals of their business.


Many advertisers are concerned about campaign results. What have the results been for these campaigns? 


C.B.: My experience is that if you want to show results for your advertisers, tie them into a branded content package that aligns with what they do and who they want to reach. Your conversation about results will shift from the number of impressions that you delivered to engagement and click throughs for digital advertising.

Our click through rates for our banded content (BC) are way better than our regular run of site (ROS) banner ads.


Advertiser 1

ROS    31,543 imp      26 CTUU

BC      9,140 imp        192 CTU


Advertiser 2

ROS   55,899 imp      103 CTU

BC      2,548 imp        306 CTU


Same ads, but some were placed within our branded content module on our site and the others were run off site. There was much more engagement with calls to action. One ad agency kept telling us that our numbers were great, and in one meeting with a senior manager, she shared with me that our numbers (click throughs and other calls to action) were trending above the level of the combined numbers for most of the other media outlets that they were dealing with. Our results were so good that they started giving us more insertions and including us in a larger share of their ad buys.

How have you used the Branded Content Project's content?


C.B.: We primarily utilize pre-written and vetted content from the Branded Content Project. Our first sale was a sponsorship of Active Aging, then we followed up with Parenting Today, Go Green, Finances FYI and Home Sweet Home. Most of the clients are okay with the content that we have, but we have some that want custom content as well, which of course means that we have to devote more resources to the campaign and more money, which makes our CFO very happy.


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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