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 LOCALISH shared with us.

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

The ABC Owned Television Stations have worked to integrate branded content into our larger multi-platform sales strategy, offering clients a range of opportunities from sponsorship of existing verticals and series, to fully custom content integrations. The strength of our broadcast brands serves as a megaphone to amplify digital-first initiatives, offering clients the opportunity to connect with audiences on all screens and platforms. OTV’s new Localish brand has opened up additional opportunities to connect with new audiences and new advertisers with its digital-first perspective and fresh narrative style.

Branded content is an important revenue opportunity for media groups and for advertisers because as the digital media landscape evolves, organizations can no longer rely on conventional media buys as the sole source of digital revenue. Additionally, media-savvy, younger audiences are seeking out “authentic” experiences and have shifting expectations around conventional advertising. Branded content creates the opportunity for advertisers to connect with that audience in a way that speaks to their interest and worldview.

The aspect of the Branded Content Project’s Alpha Group that excites me the most is the opportunity to collaborate with other media organizations and learn from each other’s successes and challenges. We see the Alpha Group as an opportunity to share knowledge so we can grow together to innovate within the branded content space.

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

If a media organization is just starting to sell branded content I would tell them that branded content is just as much about the content as it is our commitment to our clients. It’s not about producing an advertorial; rely on your strengths as storytellers to create an experience that provides value for your audience and then think about a way to organically integrate the client. You also need informed, educated sellers to successfully bring your product to market. Selling content can involve a different set of skills for teams accustomed to selling linear spots, display and pre-roll.