As we noted in our discussion of the four business models for sponsored content, there are varying levels of involvement from the brand and the publisher. In some cases the brand is on its own to produce what it wants to publish. But in many cases someone working for the publisher plays a role.
The goal is to refine a piece to the point that it is informative and something readers would really want.
Most publishers seem to have a separate stable of writers/editors for any original sponsored content. They keep it out of the newsroom. Though newsroom people may have some say in final approval before publication.
For example, BuzzFeed, Gawker, Hearst and Washington Post each have teams ranging from five people to 40 who produce their sponsored content.
At some publications, staff in production, design or technical roles may be shared between regular journalism and sponsored content. For example, Vox Media has a video production unit where camera operators and video editors produce the technical aspects of both types of content.
Most publishers operating in the “agency model” also seem to agree they have to work with sponsors to craft and elevate the content so it works both for readers and the sponsor. It rarely comes in right the first time.
The goal is to refine a piece to the point that it is informative and something readers would really want, says Alec Dann, vice president of media operations at marketing firm FierceMarkets.
Max Levy, who produces sponsored content pieces for the Atlantic, says his goal is always to “share a good story” that is on par with the quality of editorial content.