‘Branded con­tent stu­dios’ o er boon for pub­lish­ers

Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Front Page - BY SARAH ZOOK MAN­AG­ING EDI­TOR

As more and more me­dia com­pa­nies look to na­tive ad­ver­tis­ing to save di­min­ish­ing rev­enues, they’re also in­vest­ing dol­lars into mak­ing sure that con­tent melds seam­lessly with the rest of their prod­ucts. Condé Nast, The New York Times and The Wall Street Jour­nal are a few of the com­pa­nies that have opened branded con­tent stu­dios in the last year.

At NYT, na­tive ad­ver­tis­ing fu­eled a 16.5 per­cent in­crease in dig­i­tal-ad rev­enue dur­ing the third quar­ter, the com­pany said. Dig­i­tal ad sales reached $38.2 mil­lion from July-Septem­ber, rep­re­sent­ing more than a quar­ter of to­tal ad sales.

“The big­gest driv­ers are the launch of, and pos­i­tive growth of our paid post busi­ness,” Mered­ith Ko­pit Le­vien, NYT ad­ver­tis­ing chief said in a call with in­vestors. NYT’s paid posts, paid for by ad­ver­tis­ers, are de­vel­oped by NYT’s T Brand Stu­dios to mimic ed­i­to­rial copy.

NYT launched T Brand Stu­dios in Jan­uary 2014, with a col­lec­tion of free­lance sto­ries for Dell.

“In ad­di­tion to dis­tri­bu­tion, we saw a sig­nif­i­cant de­mand for new ex­pres­sions of branded con­tent be­yond what cur­rently ex­isted, and a higher level qual­ity that de­served to sit side-by-side with New York Times news­room con­tent,” Se­bas­tian Tomic, vice pres­i­dent of ad­ver­tis­ing and branded con­tent for NYT told News & Tech.

In or­der to cre­ate the kind of ads that could flow with NYT con­tent, Le­vien hired for­mer Bloomberg Busi­ness­week Edi­tor Adam As­ton to serve as edi­tor-in-chief of T Brand Stu­dios.

Over the sum­mer, NYT hired 21 peo­ple, in­clud­ing de­sign­ers, tech­nol­o­gists, project man­agers, con­tent strate­gists and so­cial me­dia ex­perts to round out the team. Dur­ing those same months, the news­pa­per cut 100 jobs from its news­room. And Tomic said T Brand Stu­dios is hir­ing more staff, with plans to build up to a team of 35.

By the end of 2014, T Brand Stu­dios cre­ated 41 cam­paigns and Tomic hopes to dou­ble that

num­ber in 2015.

T Brand Stu­dios part­ners with at least one client from nearly ev­ery ad­ver­tis­ing cat­e­gory, ac­cord­ing to Tomic. It now has al­most 50 Brand Stu­dio clients in­clud­ing Cole Haan, Net­flix, Google, Shell and Volvo.

“Dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion is cru­cial for us,” Tomic said. “Rather than work with the same pool of free­lancers and plat­forms that brands can work with di­rectly, we now have a highly skilled team that brings a Times’ per­spec­tive to brand sto­ry­telling.”

The point of it all is to keep the ed­i­to­rial side of the pa­per pro­duc­ing con­tent for an­other day — and it seems to be work­ing.

A United Air­lines in­ter­ac­tive graphic pro­duced in part­ner­ship with NYT showed how far ath­letes trav­eled to com­pete at the 2014 Sochi Win­ter Olympics. The re­sult, ac­cord­ing to Le­vien, was nearly 200,000 clicks.

An ar­ti­cle on the women’s pri­son sys­tem spon­sored by Net­flix to pro­mote its se­ries "Or­ange is the New Black," mean­time, made the top-10-most-viewed ar­ti­cles on the web­site when it was pub­lished. Le­vien went on to say that Times read­ers are spend­ing roughly as much time on paid posts as they are on tra­di­tional ed­i­to­rial con­tent.

“The best way to pre­serve ed­i­to­ri­ally in­de­pen­dent, high-qual­ity jour­nal­ism is to pre­serve the busi­ness model,” Le­vien re­cently told Cap­i­tal New York. “And I think the idea of branded con­tent that shares a form fac­tor with ed­i­to­rial is a great first step.”

The Wall Street Jour­nal shares that sen­ti­ment. The pa­per launched its branded con­tent di­vi­sion WSJ. Cus­tom Stu­dios in March 2014.

“WSJ. Cus­tom Stu­dios was cre­ated to em­power brands to tell their own story and connect more deeply with the cus­tomers,” Sarah Dale, vice pres­i­dent, head of dig­i­tal and con­tent at The Wall Street Jour­nal told N&T. “All brands have a story to tell and we want to help them — be it through cus­tom con­tent, na­tive ad­ver­tis­ing or in­fo­graph­ics.”

WSJ. Cus­tom Stu­dios is made up of a team of ed­i­tors, de­sign­ers and in­ter­ac­tive de­vel­op­ers who are sep­a­rate from the ed­i­to­rial staff at the pa­per, that, ac­cord­ing to Dale, up­hold the high con­tent stan­dards of WSJ.

“We’re more than just a con­tent shop though,” she said. “We part­ner with our ad­ver­tis­ers and pro­vide an in­tel­lec­tual, au­thor­i­ta­tive and in­formed point of view.”

This point of view is a key sell­ing fac­tor to both ad­ver­tis­ers and au­di­ences. WSJ reaches a highly in­flu­en­tial au­di­ence for which ad­ver­tis­ers are will­ing to pay.

Dale said the rev­enue uptick from the con­tent stu­dio has been, “dra­matic.”

One of WSJ. Cus­tom Stu­dios’ con­tent so­lu­tions prod­ucts is Nar­ra­tives, which uses sto­ry­telling to cre­ate con­tent-driven ad­ver­tis­ing for

brands. Nar­ra­tives con­tent re­sides on the WSJ.com home­page.

The first con­tent re­leased from WSJ. Cus­tom Stu­dios was a three­month part­ner­ship with Bro­cade and God­frey Q and Part­ners. It fea­tured a cam­paign of 12 ar­ti­cles that fo­cused on game-chang­ing tech­nol­ogy and data.

Trevor Fel­lows, global head of ad­ver­tis­ing sales for WSJ, gave a pre­sen­ta­tion at the Digi­day Pub­lish­ing Sum­mit in Key Bis­cayne, Fla., in Septem­ber 2014, where he sug­gested that, in or­der to run a suc­cess­ful na­tive ad cam­paign, one must work with the news cy­cle.

“Ad­ver­tis­ers who pro­duce na­tive (that) can be aligned with the news are able to en­joy a great deal of at­ten­tion,” he said.

News­pa­pers and mag­a­zine com­pa­nies may cer­tainly be the best po­si­tioned to help their clients do just that. Hav­ing a team of in­di­vid­u­als ded­i­cated to be­ing the first to know po­si­tions th­ese pub­lish­ers to of­fer the timeli­est cam­paigns for their clients.

In a bid to cap­i­tal­ize on con- tent cre­ation for ad­ver­tis­ers, Condé Nast this year cre­ated its branded con­tent stu­dio, dubbed 23 Sto­ries by Condé Nast, through which con­tent for its ad­ver­tis­ing part­ners is de­vel­oped and dis­trib­uted by CN's ed­i­to­rial and dig­i­tal video staff. The con­tent is then dis­trib­uted through­out the pub­lisher’s many plat­forms.

CN of­fers a vast mar­ket reach for ad­ver­tis­ers, rank­ing No. 1 among af­flu­ent mil­lenials (ages 18-34, with an­nual house­hold in­comes of $100,000 and more) in comS­core’s life­style cat­e­gory. The com­pany reaches a monthly av­er­age of 77 mil­lion up­scale cus­tomers across its dig­i­tal, mo­bile and video plat­forms, ac­com­pa­nied by an equally af­flu­ent print au­di­ence of 51 mil­lion.

“The in­dus­try is evolv­ing,” said Anna Win­tour, artis­tic direc­tor of CN. “So too are our ways of sto­ry­telling. It is ex­cit­ing to have new op­por­tu­ni­ties that will al­low the vi­sion and in­tel­li­gence of our ed­i­to­rial teams to reach con­sumers.”

WSJ's branded con­tent project with Mercedes Benz.

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