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Appendix: What specific publishers, brands and analysts are doing with sponsored content

We asked participants in our Thought Leader Summit on sponsored content to give us some specific information via a survey. Here were their responses:

Publishers using sponsored content

Forbes

Mark Howard, chief revenue officer:

Q: What does your organization offer in terms of sponsored content / native advertising / content marketing? What is the content and how is it delivered? What do you call it?

Forbes BrandVoice allows marketers to connect directly with the Forbes audience by enabling them to distribute content – and participate in the conversation – on the Forbes digital publishing platform. Each BrandVoice is produced by the marketer.

Q: How does your sponsored content process work? For example, what is the process of sales and content creation from start to completion?

BrandVoice is bought on a monthly site license model that allows the brand unlimited publishing. Each brand is responsible for creation of their content, however we do offer a service to help with that content creation if they need it. The majority of the BrandVoice partners are doing their own content ensuring it’s in line with the topics that interest them most, provide them to be in charge of the stories and thought leadership content that they’re distributing.

Q: In what ways do you see your approach to sponsored content as different than others in the industry?

BrandVoice is about brands being able to create content in their own voice and use the same tools that the Forbes editorial operation uses to publish. We aren’t looking to write content on their behalf in the tone or voice of Forbes. The audience wants to hear directly from brands and as long as the brands respect the experience that a user is expecting on Forbes then the audience will engage just like they do any other piece of content.

GFR Media

The largest communications media company in Puerto Rico
Loren Ferre, general manager of Indice:

Q: What does your organization offer in terms of sponsored content / native advertising / content marketing? What is the content and how is it delivered? What do you call it?

We have worked with three types:

Contextual advertising — where the ad is located near or in the same page where the related editorial content publishes.

Sponsored — where we produced the strategy & web and print content for back-to-school initiative for Procter & Gamble.

Content in relation to daily deal offers.

Q: How does your sponsored content process work? For example, what is the process of sales and content creation from start to completion?

The sales executive works with the ad agency or directly with the client, and the idea is produced in a team effort in the supplements department of GFR Media.

The advertisers pay for a package and the rate depends on the content production and ad space. It is handled case by case.

Huffington Post

Jorge Urrutia, vice president of operations, and Tessa Gould, director of HuffPost Partner Studio and native ad products:

Q: What does your organization offer in terms of sponsored content / native advertising / content marketing? What is the content and how is it delivered? What do you call it?

We have an in-house creative agency called HuffPost Partner Studio that works with brands and agencies to create branded content (e.g., infographics, listicles, brand blogs, slideshows, video mashups etc.) that is promoted in premium native ad placements (in-stream) on the HuffPost platform.

We refer to it as sponsored content, but it is promoted / distributed across the site in native ad units.

Q: How does your sponsored content process work? For example, what is the process of sales and content creation from start to completion?

We go to market proactively and also respond to RFPs. Our HuffPost Partner Studio team works on initial pitches with the sales team, and once the sale is made, works with the client / agency on developing, creating, launching, and delivering the products

Q: In what ways do you see your approach to sponsored content as different than others in the industry?

We don’t give advertisers free range to our CMS — that is, the ability to upload directly to our CMS. A big part of our value proposition is that you work directly with a member of the HuffPost Partner Studio team that will create original content for the brand specifically for the HuffPost platform OR provide editorial oversight and guidance for any content that a brand has written and wishes to post to our platform.

Vox Media

Owner of SB Nation, The Verge and Polygon
Chad Mumm, creative director:

Q: What does your organization offer in terms of sponsored content / native advertising / content marketing? What is the content and how is it delivered? What do you call it?

“We offer sponsored content in video across all three of our vertical sites (The Verge, SB Nation, and Polygon). The content ranges from custom video content created with our advertising partners to sponsorship of editorially driven video series.

On SB Nation we offer a sponsored post model on our local team blogs.

Q: How does your sponsored content process work? For example, what is the process of sales and content creation from start to completion?

We have a dedicated group at Vox called Vox Creative that oversees the creative development, production, and execution of any sponsored content.

Q: In what ways do you see your approach to sponsored content as different than others in the industry?

We leverage our reputation for creating beautiful and engaging, community-driven web products in our sponsored content and not our editorial authority. We are extremely clear about the line between sponsored content and our editorial content and do not see any value in being ambiguous or dishonest or trying to “trick” users in consuming our sponsored content. We make sponsored content that stands on its own merits.

Wall Street Journal

Robin Riddle, global publisher, WSJ Custom Content Studios:

Q: What does your organization offer in terms of sponsored content / native advertising / content marketing? What is the content and how is it delivered? What do you call it?

We produce sponsored content and customized content marketing solutions for our clients. These programs take many forms but are essentially a combination of visual and written, brand-centric story telling. The brand we use to publish this work is WSJ. Custom Content Studios.

Q: How does your sponsored content process work? For example, what is the process of sales and content creation from start to completion?

It’s a collaborative process starting with brand or communication objectives. We create an idea, and then consider delivery options across the relevant platforms, depending on who the target audience is.

Q: In what ways do you see your approach to sponsored content as different than others in the industry?

We see “sponsored content” as editorial that our newsroom has produced and the marketer simply sponsors it, so has no involvement in the process of creating it.

Washington Post

Kelly Andresen, director of ad innovations and sales planning, and Anna Heatherly, manager of mobile ad sales:

Q: What does your organization offer in terms of sponsored content / native advertising / content marketing? What is the content and how is it delivered? What do you call it?

We offer both sponsored content and native advertising across all platforms including: print, digital, mobile, video and live events. The solution is called WP BrandConnect.

Sponsored content is editorial content that is sponsored by an advertiser. Native advertising is content that is either produced by the client or we can create the content on their behalf that is clearly labeled as sponsored generated content and is promoted throughout our platforms. This content is mostly in the form of long-form articles, videos or graphics, since that’s what our readers come to us to find.

Q: How does your sponsored content process work? For example, what is the process of sales and content creation from start to completion?

Content assets can be provided to us by the client, or we can coordinate the creation of custom content through our network of dedicated designers, videographers, producers, and writers who are part of our custom content team to meet advertisers’ needs.

Once the content has been reviewed and approved by the client, content is then published in our CMS across desktop and mobile web, and in print by a member of the advertising team. The newsroom is not involved in the creation or publication of any WP BrandConnect content.

WP BrandConnect content is then promoted in designated positions across the desktop and mobile web homepage, appropriate section fronts, in PostTV, as well in appropriate features, and in print.

Total costs to the advertiser includes both content development and promotion and performance reports are provided throughout the campaign.

Q: In what ways do you see your approach to sponsored content as different than others in the industry?

WP BrandConnect is not just a destination site. It is truly integrated into the full reader experience across desktop, mobile, and print. WP BrandConnect content can be found in clearly labeled blogs, the Grid, X-Streams, Topic.ly, as well as promoted across relevant content areas of the site.

In addition, WP attracts a highly engaged audience that interacts with WP BrandConnect content that same way they interact with editorial content, because the placements are so well integrated.

What brands want

Dell

Stephanie Losee, managing editor:

Q: What does your organization want out of sponsored content? What are you looking to accomplish?

We use sponsored content in different ways (and I’m sure we’re using terms that don’t mean the same thing).

On our owned platforms, we call our thought leadership “sponsored content” (Insights from Dell) in order to be fully transparent to our audiences. On paid platforms (like Forbes BrandVoice or the pilot we’re working on), we use sponsored content to put our content and the ad that goes with it in front of audiences on third-party sites where they gather.

Q: How does sponsored content fit into your organization’s broader strategy for marketing and branding?

It is one component of the paid / owned / earned strategy.

Q: What successes have you seen?

Content going viral. One example was a blog paired with a drawn infographic done by a bestselling author and award-winning illustrator about a topic having nothing to do with Dell, which we published on our Forbes BrandVoice page.

It went viral and was chosen by Houghton Mifflin for “Best American Infographics,” which will be published next month. It will say “Illustration by Wendy MacNaughton; published by Dell Inc. on Forbes.com.” That was a proud day for me as Dell’s managing editor.

Q: Have you encountered any challenges or issues you didn’t expect? If so, what are they? What could news organizations do to fix the problem?

I’ve never encountered a problem. I’ve only watched other companies or publications encounter problems — usually when they use sponsored content to put something over on audiences. Transparency is vital.

Xerox

Ken Ericson, director of content marketing:

Q: What does your organization want out of sponsored content? What are you looking to accomplish?

Offer thought leadership to assist in our brand transformation. Its not intended for sales generation but to change perceptions of our company.

Q: How does sponsored content fit into your organization’s broader strategy for marketing and branding?

It’s a key driver in building belief for the new Xerox.

Q: What successes have you seen?

Xerox’s sponsored content site for healthcare, HealthBiz Decoded has become a news source for other publications, had its content amplified by other vendors and been awarded for its storytelling.

Q: Have you encountered any challenges or issues you didn’t expect? If so, what are they? What could news organizations do to fix the problem?

News organizations need to be able to provide brands with detailed metrics on how to measure the success of their content.

Analysts, vendors and experts

Altimeter Group

Research and consulting firm for companies challenged by disruption
Rebecca Lieb, analyst:

Q: What challenges do you see for news organizations who use sponsored content?

Defining it, training staff for it, scaling it, developing policies around it.

Q: Where and how have you seen sponsored content executed well?

Mashable, Gawker Media, BuzzFeed

Better Business Bureau

Lee Peeler, president of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council:

Q: What challenges do you see for news organizations who use sponsored content?

Maintaining the trust of their readers and credibility of their journalism while providing advertising-supported content. In providing native advertising vehicles publishers will also be assuming greater responsibility for the content of the advertising as well as the accuracy of the content.

Q: Where and how have you seen sponsored content executed well?

There are numerous example of excellent sponsored content. What publishers need to be wary of is content that is misleading and not identified as sponsored. Examples from the past included paid for or otherwise compensated tweets or blogs, paid programming imitating the format of consumer reporting or news programing, “viral” videos with undisclosed paid for content.

Edelman

The world’s largest public relations firm
Steve Rubel, chief content strategist:

Q: What challenges do you see for news organizations who use sponsored content?

Artfully balancing the needs of the audience, the business and the advertisers.

Creating tiered pricing that makes sponsored content more accessible to more advertisers.

Maintaing quality control as automation seeps in.

Q: Where and how have you seen sponsored content executed well?

Advertising Age and Mashable — made it very accessible for business audiences while providing realistic metrics.

Tribune Content Studio — provided proposals with lots of ideas.

Fairfield University

Private university in Fairfield, Conn.
Michael Serazio, assistant professor:

Q: What challenges do you see for news organizations who use sponsored content?

As a scholar who studies this (as opposed to a practitioner who participates), it strikes me as endangering the credibility of news organizations that employ it. I understand why advertisers and brands are eager to explore this option for promotion (people don’t want to engage with banner ads, etc.) and I understand the need for news organizations to come up with new means of financing, but there has to be an ethical dilemma that’s being worked out (or overlooked) here.

FierceMarkets

Online marketing agency based in Washington, D.C.
Alec Dann, vice president of media operations:

Q: What challenges do you see for news organizations who use sponsored content?

Clear labeling.
Providing information that readers will value.
Content must be congruent with brand standards.
Requires separate editorial staff or clear guidelines on what editorial involvement can entail.
Project managers and sales need clear guidelines on how editorial involvement will work.
Sponsor needs clear guidelines on what content is acceptable and what vetting process will be.

Mashable

Todd Wasserman, news editor:

Q: What challenges do you see for news organizations who use sponsored content?

The main challenge is for news organizations to maintain the integrity of their own brands. If you run sponsored content that runs contrary to what your brand stands for, there’s discord.

Q: Where and how have you seen sponsored content executed well?

BuzzFeed does some interesting stuff. The content can be compelling and often, on-brand.

NewsCred

Content marketing agency
Jennifer Stenger, director of publisher development:

Q: What challenges do you see for news organizations who use sponsored content?

Authenticity. To be a good experience for all that content needs to be authentic to the site itself and the audience and can’t feel too out of place. Finding that right match in a scalable way can be challenging.

Q: Where and how have you seen sponsored content executed well?

BuzzFeed is obviously the best example. Part of the reason is that it’s truly part of their publishing ecosystem.

Ogilvy

Global communications and PR agency
Matthew Greenberg, vice president of content strategy, Social@Ogilvy:

Q: What does your organization want out of sponsored content? What are you looking to accomplish?

We look to tell quality stories — emotional or informative or both — that are contextual, relevant and helpful to the consumer.

Q: How does sponsored content fit into your organization’s broader strategy for marketing and branding?

It will become a larger and larger focus for our digital/social marketing efforts.

Publish2

Native advertising technology platform
Scott Karp, CEO and founder:

Q: What challenges do you see for news organizations who use sponsored content?

The biggest challenges for news organizations using native advertising are editorial control and scale.

News organizations can’t treat native ads like display ads and just accept whatever advertisers give them. They must be able to curate native ad content to ensure it fits with their brand and is relevant for their readers. They also need to optimize content selection to ensure high engagement for advertisers.

Most news organizations are using a manual process to manage native advertising, adding sponsored content to their CMS one item at a time. To scale native advertising, they must be able to automate content management for a large number of advertisers, same as they currently do for display ads. But unlike display ad servers, news organizations need a platform that is deeply integrated with their CMS, because fundamentally native advertising is content.

With editorial control and scale for native ads, news organizations will be able to safely and reliably secure a high-growth revenue stream, especially for their mobile products.

Q: Where and how have you seen sponsored content executed well?

With respect to quality, I agree largely with the answers given by other respondents. But with regards to quantity, or execution at scale across publishers, that we have yet to see.

Speakeasy

Content marketing company co-owned by the Dallas Morning News
Mike Orren, president:

Q: What challenges do you see for news organizations who use sponsored content?

Figuring out “nonstandard” placements both in terms of workflow and technology. Understanding the difference between advertorial and sponsored content.

Q: Where and how have you seen sponsored content executed well?

Dallas Morning News — GuideLive (Disclosure, my company does that work).

New York Times: CitiBikes in-app placement

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