First days and first steps are always memorable occasions. New projects have the same excitement as the first day of school, even if there isn’t the need for photo documentation. The first steps for the Branded Content Project, part of a $1 million investment from the Facebook Journalism Project to help more than 2,000 local newsrooms better understand, develop and implement revenue streams through branded content, have been inspiring.

Watching our Alpha Group of seven successful organizations begin working together across media types and market size in order to make everyone stronger is noble, humbling and honorable. Yes, the goal is to improve their own initiatives, but each knows the stakes are higher than just “increasing revenue.” We know the paths they are carving will help other local media publishers find new, sustainable revenue models. Their first days and first steps are everyone’s first steps.


The Alpha Group had its first introductory call giving participants the opportunity to hear each other’s successes, meet the members of each team and learn about our fast and furious schedule of events the next six months. The seven Alphas will meet in person several times as well as virtually to build a community that acts as part sounding board, part test lab and part innovation space. We will share their success with all of you at conferences, in case studies and eventually through tools and training kits that everyone can implement in their own organizations.


We’re highlighting each organization’s goals for the project and what they hope to gain from their participation in the Branded Content Project. These goals will become the backbone of their testing strategy over the next four months.

ABC / Localish – We would like to implement a training curriculum to educate our sellers across the county to be better positioned to sell branded content opportunities to existing and future clients. We are interested in learning more about creating experiential events around our Localish brand to allow communities to connect with the brand in an “in real life” setting.

Creative Lab @ McClatchy – Creative Lab @McClatchy will grow its revenue pipeline via series of branded content educational events that will (1) directly appeal to current and potential McClatchy clients while (2) simultaneously helping sales reps across the country better communicate branded content solutions.

The Dallas Morning News – We will be focusing on the FWDDFW cause-marketing initiative with the goal of refining what the second year/phase of the program looks like and how we can continue to iterate on the branded content produced to accomplish our partners’ goals. We would also like to focus on more wholly integrating branded content solutions for lower-level advertisers outside of our founding and signature partners.

Graham Media – As part of our branded content project, we will be working to create a new self-sustaining strategy for a team to generate native and/or sponsored content by leveraging demand-side keywords and categories, based on an analytics-first approach. We will then be able utilize this content to create local sales packages, maximizing efficiency and effectiveness for clients and stations.

Shaw Media – Find new innovative ways to enhance our branded content campaigns and maximize brand exposure while successfully increasing revenue as a result of the project findings.

The Texas Tribune – Our goal is to elegantly present branded content on our site and do so in ways that complement our SEO strategy.

WRAL – We are excited to continue to evolve our branded content work related to cause marketing and community partnerships. We want to create a strategy to develop impactful collateral to help showcase our previous work, drive more business, and add value to consumers.


One of the most beneficial additions to the project will be adding a research component before we begin testing. We have partnered with Magid, an independent research firm with 60 years of media research history, to conduct focus groups in seven markets, (Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Austin, Kansas City and Raleigh) over the next two weeks. We are focused on determining the needs of local advertisers currently utilizing branded content, and those advertisers who are considered prospective branded content advertisers. We will also identify opportunities for local advertisers to leverage branded content as a part of their overall advertising strategy, as well as determine what their interest levels are. This research will be shared industry wide, allowing all local media publishers an insider’s view into what advertisers really want and need from a branded content campaign.

After watching this group’s bold first steps, we all better get ready for the next ones! Keep updated on the progress of this project by stopping by