Branded content uses the strength of storytelling to provide valuable benefits to advertisers while increasing audience engagement and revenue for local media publishers. This powerful revenue stream has shown to be a success for many media organizations. The Branded Content Project is designed to help facilitate additional growth, engagement and success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes. The project was developed through a unique partnership between the LMC and the LMA. It is part of a $1 million investment from the Facebook Journalism Project to help more than 2,000 local newsrooms among LMA and LMC members better understand, develop and implement revenue streams through branded content both on and off Facebook. The call for applications was announced in January and ended March 1. Applications came from LMA and LMC members and non-members alike, with close to 40 entries from across the U.S. and as far away as India and Norway.

After five rounds of the selection process — with guidance from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and careful consideration given to those projects that were financially successful, scalable to other markets or media types and could provide lessons for the industry — our 7 Alpha partners were selected. The 7 Amazing Alpha Partners that will be leading industry innovation are ABC Owned Television Station Group, The Dallas Morning News, Graham Media Group, McClatchy, Shaw Media, The Texas Tribune, and WRAL in Raleigh, N.C.

We will highlight one of our Alphas each of the next seven days, allowing you to peek inside their initiative and showcase why they have seen success with branded content. We will follow each of our Alphas every step of the way for the next six months of research, testing and results.

We asked each Alpha partner to fill in the blanks on a few questions focused on branded content. Here is what TEAM GRAHAM shared with us.

Tell me in a few sentences about your initiative and what you see as the strongest elements of your program.

The ability to offer our advertisers exposure for their branded content stories across our full scope of platforms – broadcast and OTT, websites, mobile and apps, social channels and more – combined with a data-driven approach to determining content and categories, will be a win for our clients.

Our branded content initiative is unique because 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 to utilize this content to create local sales packages, maximizing efficiency and effectiveness for clients and stations.

Branded content is an important revenue opportunity for media groups and for advertisers because the strength of local news sites is in their content and ability to tell stories, and branded content allows us to put that strength at the forefront and better gain control of the monetization in ways that have been lost on the internet. Advertisers are able more successfully connect with and convert customers through the helpful resources they provide in their branded content stories. Creating success for our advertisers means success for our stations with effective products that will drive new business and revenue.

The aspect of the Branded Content Project’s Alpha Group that excites me the most is working with the LMA, the LMC and the Facebook Journalism Project teams, as well as the other industry-leading Alpha partners, to together learn from the data and research and refine our approach to branded content, and share these findings toward building success for advertisers in local media.

We hope to learn ____ through the Branded Content Project and its Alpha Group. 

We are looking forward to using this opportunity to better establish our internal processes that will allow us to scale our branded content products across our group.

If a media organization is just starting to sell branded content I would tell them that to build a successful product, get organized before you start!