Local Media Orgs Form Beta Group

A broad mix of media companies are selected for a Facebook Journalism Project-funded program to test and expand branded content programs.

The Local Media Consortium and the Local Media Association today announced the selection of 22 diverse local media companies as beta group participants for the Branded Content Project, a partnership between the LMC and the LMA, and funded by a $1 million investment from the Facebook Journalism Project that began in March 2019 with an initial alpha test group.

These organizations, each of which demonstrate a commitment to furthering best practices in branded content initiatives, will received grant money to test and develop successful and sustainable branded content offerings and revenue streams.

The LMA and LMC define branded content as any sales initiative that uses content to engage the user and is paid for by a client who participates as part of the content, helps supply the content, or sponsors the content that is distributed across any platform.

“We received applications encompassing every media type from all over the world, and ultimately selected the branded content betas that best demonstrate the ability to help others learn from their initiatives while learning more about branded content strategies themselves,” said Julia Campbell, Branded Content Project lead. “As part of the Branded Content Project initiative, these beta testers will build on the knowledge gleaned from the alpha projects, participate in case studies and contribute to white papers to explain their findings and share their results with the broader local media industry. “

The call for applications was announced in September and closed Oct. 21 seeking groups with a mature branded content program. Applications were received from LMA and LMC members and non-members, with entries from across the U.S. and as far away as Africa and Argentina.

The Branded Content Project beta group includes the following (listed in alphabetical order):

BRAND CONNECTIONS

  • ARA Newspaper (ara.cat)
  • Cox Media Group
  • Entravision Communications
  • GateHouse Media
  • Growing Community Media
  • Lifestyle Frisco
  • MinnPost
  • Mundo Hispanico
  • Narcity Media
  • Newsday Media Group
  • Portland Press Herald – Masthead Maine Media Network
  • Skyline (SCNG Media)
  • Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Swift Communications
  • TAPinto.net
  • The Denver Post
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)
  • The Seattle Times
  • Tribune Publishing
  • Village Media Inc.
  • WBOC Salisbury, Md. (Draper Media)

Many of the organizations will focus their testing on the common challenges identified across all organizations in the first round, including the need for education of the sales teams and advertisers, proving ROI for clients, and improving the process and workload of branded content teams.

In addition to interacting with and drawing from the alpha group’s discoveries, planned beta initiatives include working with brands and advertisers to test scalability in other markets, improving usability or UX, implementing better analytics or reporting, adding additional training for sales and news, adding social video production, gaining assistance with in-market group sales events for clients and purchasing technology for improved production.

“Our participation in the Branded Content Project’s alpha group has been especially rewarding as each of the participants brought a unique perspective and challenges to the table in an earnest effort to collaborate and grow together,” said Eric Brandner, general manager, Creative Lab at McClatchy. “The best part is seeing the wins: our team has already incorporated several Branded Content Project insights into our work, and it’s been great to see our project colleagues launch revenue-driving initiatives, too. I know the beta group will benefit from these same opportunities.”

The consensus among Branded Content Project participants is that drawing from strength in numbers and lessons learned from industry colleagues is an invaluable opportunity. “Our team is honored to participate in the Branded Content Project because it offers us the opportunity to learn from other wonderful publishers in the space who have seen success too,” said Robin Gruen, Vice President, Tribune Publishing. “We all bring unique and varied experience to the table, which makes for interesting, insightful and applicable outcomes. We know this initiative will prove valuable to our clients, as well.”

The beta testing will begin in January 2020 with plans to share initial findings with fellow alpha and beta participants in spring 2020. The organizations will work together to test projects through fall 2020, ultimately sharing findings industrywide to guide local media organizations toward more efficient and effective branded content programs and revenue streams.


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