Advertising Guest Columns
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Why branded content is the revenue solution publishers need now

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The reason media companies have found success with branded content is because it’s what local businesses want. Over the past three years, the Meta Branded Content Project helped publishers generate more than $50 million with their branded content programs, training, guidance and support. In 2021, an additional $3.75 million was generated for local media outlets that used no-cost or low-cost custom content series provided by the project.  

According to research from Borrell Associates and the Meta Branded Content Project in 2020, content marketing is a top focus for small and medium businesses with 56% saying content marketing would be more of a priority in 2021. 

There is a great advantage for brands to align with local media companies because they have large, targeted audiences. News organizations build loyal audiences by producing high-quality content that consumers crave. This opens the door for media organizations to excel with branded content, creating a winning combination for local news and advertisers. 

But what exactly is branded content?  Let’s start with a basic definition.

The Meta Branded Content Project defines 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. Native advertising articles, social videos with a sponsor tag or element, product placement, sponsored live events, sponsored collections of stories or paid video segments are examples within our definition of branded content.”

Because of the massive revenue growth opportunity with content marketing plus the unique advantage local media companies have with their engaged audiences and distribution channels, a strategic partnership was formed in 2019. The Meta Journalism Project, Local Media Association and Local Media Consortium created a full-service branded content product development, content creation, education, sales coaching, distribution and monetization resource open to all local publishers called the Meta Branded Content Project.

“With expected content marketing growth, local media companies have a real opportunity to drive revenue and attract new audiences with engaging branded content,” said Julia Campbell, general manager, the Meta Branded Content Project.

The branded content program includes training, guidance and support. These resources were particularly impactful for publishers who are independently owned, publishers of color and those serving small markets.

“With over $393,000 in revenue, the Meta Branded Content Project has not only been a lifeline for our business during the pandemic, but it has also become a revenue stream that we fully expect to be an integral part of our business model moving forward,” said Chris Bennett, CEO and publisher of the Seattle Medium.

Bennett sold multiple Meta Branded Content Project turnkey lifestyle series, including: Active Aging, Home Sweet Home, Go Green, Finances FYI and Parenting Today.  Eighteen months ago, branded content wasn’t a part of Seattle Medium’s advertising strategy, but thanks to sales products and support from Meta Branded Content Project, the publication has impressively built its content marketing strategy into a recurring source of revenue from the ground up. 

The project’s Cannabis Weekly series has been a solution for cannabis brands who have limited advertising options due to various regulations. The Seattle Times sold Cannabis Weekly at a premium, since cannabis is a hot commodity in the state of Washington.  

“We had a lot of people interested in cannabis,” said Chandler Downs, director of strategic and branded content partnerships at The Seattle Times Content Studio. “We rolled out Cannabis Monthly, so we wanted to be a little bit more selective about the content and make it a little more focused on the Pacific Northwest.”. 

Due to the success of publishers participating in the Meta Branded Content Project programs, the team at Meta Journalism Project has stepped up with new funding. The new investment of $1 million will help enhance and expand branded content programs for local media outlets over the next two years including the continuation and expansion of training programs, branded badge certifications, content creation and sales support. The funding will also allow the Meta Branded Content Project to develop white papers, webinars, workshops and other resources for the local media industry, so news organizations can continue their important work informing the public. 

“This program gives local publishers opportunities to serve their communities and invest in their in-house talent,” said Dorrine Mendoza of the Meta Journalism Project’s Local News Partnerships. “We are pleased to continue our support for local media companies who can use these tools and resources to boost and diversify their digital revenue.”

The project is taking new participants for quarterly sales boot camps and monthly training with experts in content marketing from all over the world. All training, coaching and certificate programs are completely free for the global industry.  If you’re not already using content marketing, you’re missing out on major new revenue. To get started, email to build your publishing organization’s content strategy in 2022.


Liz Hayes,
Director of Strategy, The Meta Branded Content Project
Julia Campbell,
General Manager, The Meta Branded Content Project

About: Meta Branded Content Project is designed through a strategic partnership between the Local Media Association, the Local Media Consortium, and the Meta Journalism Project to help facilitate additional growth, engagement and success for more U.S. publishers of all shapes and sizes. Branded content uses the strength of storytelling to provide a valuable benefit to advertisers while increasing audience engagement and revenue for local media publishers. This powerful revenue stream has shown to be a success for many media organizations.