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 DALLAS MORNING NEWS shared with us.

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

Our current branded content program includes traditional native advertising produced by our owned content studio (articles, video, social posts) in addition to a cause marketing initiative ( that is, in large part, wholly driven by branded content. We have a strong basic foundation and a number of successful case studies generated from the work done so far. We are looking to innovate with new, utility-modeled branded content, creating digital features that are sponsored or delivered by marketing partners.

My branded content initiative is unique because of our proven existing native foundation and our FWD>DFW initiative, which is sharing targeted cause-marketing content from highly visible companies across a range of platforms including digital, print, video, and social.

Branded content is an important revenue opportunity for media groups and for advertisers because it offers high-value content while allowing advertisers the chance to target and engage with their most-likely consumers in a more authentic, interactive, and non-disruptive way.

The aspect of the Branded Content Project’s Alpha Group that excites me the most is the opportunity to further strategize on an effective, sustainable branded content program while using resources to develop utility-driven native and create new feature sets to test.

I hope to learn to improve UX and usability through the Branded Content Project and its Alpha Group.

If a media organization is just starting to sell branded content I would tell them that one-off articles for clients that include no media budget to drive traffic or engagement beyond the content are generally not a sustainable model. A branded content model resonates best within a streamlined, integrated program and a solid UX.