By Julia Campbell • The Branded Content Project

You wouldn’t use a screwdriver to hammer a nail, would you?

As media companies examine all the tools in their tool belts that impact sales and audience engagement growth, they must choose the partners that can save time and improve results. If you can implement a strategy using powerful tools or resources, your results will be improved and amplified.

During the pilot phase of The Branded Content Project, participants received ad credits from the Facebook Journalism Project to increase email acquisition and increase audience awareness. We quickly realized we could maximize those credits and this opportunity. The Branded Content Project approached one of our trusted partners, Social News Desk, to utilize their system’s ability to take a media outlet’s best-performing content and create an “ask” through a tool called Dynamic News Ads. The ask could be newsletter sign-ups, pushes to subscription pages, or even encourage another product or service the media organization may be promoting. The system takes the publisher’s best performing posts and creates an ad using the content to assist in the call to action.

The results are impressive. Social News Desk Founder Kim Wilson said the new offering has taken off and become an instant hit with the company’s local-news clients across all of North America.

“Newsrooms are loving our results and our flexibility. We aren’t requiring big minimum spends,” she said. “We’re looking at this as a way to get instant ROI for our publishers and we want to do that, no matter how big or small their budget. And the proof is in the pudding: we’re seeing sign-ups as low as $0.22 in certain markets. It’s a game-changer for a lot of our newsrooms.”

St. Louis American

One of our biggest successes came from St. Louis American. They had an amazing amount of newsletter sign-ups at an incredibly low cost.

Demographics of sign-ups for the St. Louis American

Chicago Reader

The Chicago Reader also had excellent results from the test.

Demographics of sign-ups for the Chicago Reader

The AFRO-American

The AFRO-American also had excellent results and tested two unique paths. One set of ads focused on newsletter sign-ups and the second focused on purchases of a book titled, To The Front: Black Women and the Vote, a beautiful limited edition book produced by the AFRO on the occasion of the 19th Amendment’s centennial.

Newsletter campaign

Merchandising campaign

  • 330 clicks to the website to purchase the suffrage book at $0.14 a click
  • 167 shares for this ad and 19 saves for people that wanted to remember to buy the book later
  • The ad’s rating was above average for quality, engagement, and conversion which is Facebook’s top ranking

Demographics of sign-ups for The AFRO-American


To drive results for AL DÍA News, we tried a head-to-head test. We used some credits on a traditional ad and another round repurposing their best performing content to create an ad. Both tests pushed used messaging focused on subscriptions.

What were the results?

In AL DÍA’s test, utilizing content to engage the reader and encourage action performed much better at a lower cost per result than a traditional social ad.

Martin Alfaro, business development manager for AL DÍA, was impressed with the tools and the progress.

“Using Facebook ad credits and Social News Desk, AL DÍA News was able to grow its newsletter database, subscribers, and followers,” he said. “The process of setting Facebook ads can be intimidating. But from my experience, in working with Social News Desk, the process was smooth and insightful. We implemented changes to our website’s subscription page based on the analytics we gathered from the campaign results while testing out different creatives to best attract users.”

Dynamic News Ads overall results

The Dynamic Ad Tool produces incredible results for media organizations across the country with a 46 percent increase in subscriptions, a 1,095 percent increase in app installs, and a 278 percent increase in newsletter sign-ups, compared to other campaigns using the same budget. It truly does prove the power of using the correct tools to maximize a media organization’s efforts and budgets.

The results of our four test publishers even impressed the team at Social News Desk.

“The blending of all this great content and our Social News Desk ad technology was truly inspiring,” said Apryl Pilloli, head of innovation at Social News Desk. “We were able to focus the strategy around high-quality content the publishers were already creating, and then use it to create ads in real-time. It compelled people to signup, donate, and subscribe because it was so personalized, and Social News Desk’s approach leveraged Artificial Intelligence to decrease acquisition costs by 75 percent for these publishers. It’s something we’ve been able to repeat now with numerous others across North America, and we’re pretty excited about that!”