The Branded Content Project, funded by the Facebook Journalism Project in partnership with Local Media Association and Local Media Consortium, has challenged the branded content project alpha group to create large action plans and take giant leaps towards new revenue possibilities with branded content.

Broadcasters, print and digital media companies are all making bold moves and working together to create real change for the industry. We are inspired by their fearlessness and their willingness to take risks with each other.

Our first projects are big jumps toward revenue growth, streamlined processes that save time and money, and content production for new audiences. This group is tackling hurdles and obstacles, such as client education and sales training, that often plague media groups who wade into the deep end of branded content. The initial projects were defined following focus groups of local advertisers, conducted by Magid, which revealed opportunities and obstacles in the branded content space for media organizations.

And we are pleased to report that their innovative plans are already paying off.

These seven teams have jumped into enormous initiatives and are seeing the first round of results come in with exciting success. We’re starting our seven-part series with a feature on Graham Media Group and their branded content efforts toward travel.

Graham Media Group is comprised of seven local television stations, Graham Digital and Social News Desk delivering local news, programming, advertising solutions and digital media tools for television, online, mobile, OTT, podcasts and audio devices. They are dynamic, local brands that extend well beyond the traditional TV set. Their work helps inform, celebrate and knit together the communities they serve.

For this project, Graham Media Group created Taking Off, a campaign that features regional destinations as well as content categories determined by the company’s data-driven approach to high-value sponsored content. The elements in production will be a combination of video features for digital, social and OTT, as well as creative writing of branded content articles. Graham‘s testing plan centers around data. Team members are tracking programmatic advertising targeted on categories of content created for the Taking Off site, and other categories determined by data insights.

Comparing content category data from Trove, their internal content categorization tool, and impressions, reach, and engagement from Google Analytics and Google Ad ManagerSocial News Desk, and Tubular Labs, they determine how to best place, distribute and target content and sponsored advertising.


The Challenge

As Graham looked at their branded content initiatives, they realized they had two big challenges

  • they were underperforming in some key content categories
  • they had some trouble with disorganization

Using data, Graham Media Group recognized a significant opportunity in creating more travel content for their users. Graham was garnering the highest eCPM (effective cost per thousand impressions) for travel content, yet they were producing the least amount compared to their cohorts.

The team at Graham also recognized the opportunity to create structure around branded content. While branded content has been part of the fabric of their stations for decades, their stations needed documentation and coaching on how to sell, execute and report on branded content.

The Solution

The team from Graham created a comprehensive branded content travel franchise at their Detroit station, WDIV-TV and The new franchise focuses on engaging travel content and branded content opportunities for their advertisers.

TAKING OFF highlights valuable content that captures the joy of travel with ease and curiosity. New travel content is featured both online and on-air in their lifestyle program, Live in the D.

The Graham team remained hyperfocused on generating more quality travel content unrelated to direct sales, in hopes to lift their programmatic eCPM and overall revenue within this specific category.

The Results?

Programmatic eCPM increase lift over 65%

More Results?

Significant new business revenue for TAKING OFF, bringing in four new advertisers to the Detroit stations.

To take on challenge No. 2, Graham decided to untangle all branded content products and implemented a complete comprehensive sales structure around it.


The Results?

A 51% increase in branded content revenue Q3 to Q4, and Q4 and has just begun.


They have also seen a 40% increase in total branded content advertisers Q3 to Q4, and Q4.

What’s next for Graham?

The team will be diving into quality control of all branded content from creation to sales to distribution.

Graham also has great plans for the future of Taking Off, including a primetime special to air in Spring 2020, highlighting travel locations in the company’s other TV station markets and potentially branching the Taking Off franchise into the Graham Media Group podcast division.

Final words from Team Graham

Lauren Batcheller, national digital sales manager for Graham Media Group, is excited about the quick start and new revenue.

“Graham Media Group’s Detroit station, WDIV-TV, has been successful in capturing incremental revenue by securing several advertisers in the tourism/travel category as part of this initiative,” she said.

“With the support of the Branded Content Project, Graham Media Group has implemented organization around our branded content products. Graham Media sales teams now have the infrastructure in place to help our teams better understand what it is we have to sell and how it benefits our local and national clients,” Batcheller said.


We’re hosting a branded content innovation mission in New York in November!

Mike Katona, director of digital operations at Graham Media Group, will give us an under-the-hood look at their branded content travel initiative, Taking Off. He’ll share how they used data-driven decision making to create content around categories with potential revenue growth and how they built a new cross-platform product for their sales and content teams.

Click below to learn more and register!