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 TEXAS TRIBUNE shared with us.

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

A few years ago we started experimenting with branded content on a small site separate from our main one. At the time we thought we needed to segregate branded content from our primary site and its content. Over time, we grew more comfortable with branded content — its presentation, workflow and solicitation — and we believe that our readers are more acclimated to it now as well. That’s why we’re now shuttering that separate site and moving branded content onto our main site, where it will benefit from a much larger audience. The strongest elements of our program are its crisp design and proximity to our editorial content.

Our branded content initiative is unique because it offers thought leaders a statewide forum to engage an audience with important policy issues, such as immigration, healthcare and education.

Branded content is an important revenue opportunity for media groups and for advertisers because it offers a unique opportunity to use a larger canvas to tell their story and an opportunity to use advertiser assets such as video to support it.

The aspect of the Branded Content Project’s Alpha Group that excites me the most is the opportunity to work with other media leaders across mediums as we find the most effective and elegant ways to integrate branded content across our channels.

We hope to learn best practices and tips from a diverse peer group through the Branded Content Project and its Alpha Group.
As we integrate branded content on our main site, we have several technical, design and business problems to solve. By collaborating with the Alpha Group and having the time and resources to test various approaches, we’re confident that we will craft a smart solution that’s beneficial to our customers and informative to our readers.

If a media organization is just starting to sell branded content I would tell them to start with a cross-organization team and get its buy-in to establish the opportunity and guidelines. Clearly define and disclose the content as paid. Prospect for content that aligns with your platform and serves as a resource for your audience. Listen carefully for advertiser’s need where brand content is a solution.