Branded content is a significant revenue opportunity for smaller publishers. Borrell Associates and The Meta Branded Content Project, in 2022 research, found the amount spent on content marketing has risen to $80 billion. This increase is one of the reasons the Knight x LMA BloomLab focuses on this line of revenue.
Executing an engaging and compelling branded content campaign, however, isn’t as easy as flighting website banner ads. Once the dream is sold to the client, publishers must endure the nightmare of executing the campaign.
The good news is that Newspack, a content management system used by 11 BloomLab publishers, recognized the branded content opportunity and solved many of the campaign execution problems with its easy-to-use Sponsors feature.
Newspack provides a suite of plugin functionality for WordPress (and Newspack is a division of Automattic, the company that built and oversees WordPress products) that is designed for news publishers. With the Sponsors feature, by filling out a couple of settings, you can create sponsors and associate them with stories to give sponsored or underwritten content a unique visual treatment. You can add a client’s logo, customize disclaimers, and control the look and feel.
“When properly handled, branded content can be an important source of revenue and a service to readers,” said Kinsey Wilson, the founder and head of Newspack. “Newspack not only makes it simple to compose branded content pages, the system is set up to reflect editorial best practices — including sponsorship labels — so readers aren’t misled about the origin of the content.”
For the BloomLab publishers, this toolset has made executing branded content much smoother. One such example is a campaign The Washington Informer just launched in partnership with JPMorgan Chase & Co. This recently launched year-long campaign is a financial education series dedicated to closing the racial wealth gap by encouraging healthy conversation about financial wellness.
“Financial health is one of the most important skills one can learn, yet even today it’s still not taught in grade school. When our communities do better, we all do better, and that includes understanding money management and credit” said Carolyn Evert, executive director, Mid-Atlantic U.S. Regional Communications at JPMorgan Chase. “JPMorgan Chase is committed to supporting our residents in helping to provide proper financial tips and tricks. That’s what the Money Talk series is all about.”
The Washington Informer, a 57-year-old news organization serving African-Americans in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, worked with JPMorgan Chase and Get Current Studio to build a series that would educate The Informer’s audience and have an authentic voice, message, and look.
“The clients that wish to engage newsrooms through branded content have a message, usually for a specific audience, and they want it presented in the most authentic way possible. Having content that looks and feels like the website where it will be displayed helps their message better engage with a publisher’s audience,” said Michael Grant, CEO and founder of Get Current Studio.
Grant added, “The reason I like Newspack’s method of creating branded content is that it makes the process of designing custom articles for clients a breeze. From creating articles that stand out to choosing which topics and categories to display this content, it is clear that Newspack has built a solution that, when used as intended and sold to clients regularly, may easily result in a major digital revenue opportunity that clients are willing to pay for.”
The Washington Informer’s audience can read the stories in print and online and sign up to receive the newsletter, which was also created with Newspack’s Newsletters plugin. The newsletter tool connects with all the major email service providers and allows users to create newsletters right within the administrative interfaces for their websites.
That means no more wrestling with email builders and tedious cut-and-paste of copy and images. These efficiencies have reduced the BloomLab publishers’ work time by an hour or more per newsletter.
Plus, with the Newspack Campaigns tool, users can create inline and pop-up messages to drive increased newsletter sign-ups. BloomLab members have seen their daily signups increase 10- to 20-fold with this function.
“In any campaign, it is important to work with our writers, editors, and designers to make the client happy with the look, feel, and functionality. This provides real value and is what we accomplished with JPMorgan Chase,” said Ron Burke, director of advertising and marketing at The Washington Informer.
To see the latest stories from the Knight x LMA BloomLab, visit localmedia.org/knight-x-lma-bloomlab.