Washington Post Tries Sponsored Posts

Washington Post Tries Sponsored Posts

There
was a time when putting ads on the front page of newspapers was considered
risque. Those days are over. The Washington Post became the latest publisher to
quit worrying and learn to love sponsored content.

WaPo
today launched “BrandConnect” that will let marketers create content throughout
the WaPo site and on its homepage. It’s kind of like Forbes’ BrandVoice, which
lets brands post on the Forbes platform.  and will create content through blog
posts, videos and infographics, according to a rep.  As a sign of how important
it views this, the Post is giving the sponsored content prime real estate on its
homepage.

CTIA,
the wireless trade association, is the inaugural advertiser. The CTIA
sponsored post
 appears in a box within the main news well.
It carries the label “Sponsor Generated Content” and includes an information
symbol, which when clicked says, “BrandConnect is content provided for our
advertisers.”

The
CTIA’s sponsored content is a post by a CTIA official extolling how mobile
technology is revitalizing rural communities. It includes a CTIA-shot video. The
content is surrounded by CTIA display ads. There are no comments enabled for the
post, which is labeled at the top, “BrandConnect, engaging marketers with the
Washington Post audience,” along with another link to more information about the
program.

The
Washington Post did not say how long the CTIA campaign will
run.

Sponsored content, often operating under the guise of “native”
advertising, has proven a controversial proposition at some publishers. The
Atlantic unleashed a furor when it ran a
sponsored post by Scientology. BuzzFeed has been criticized because some of its
sponsored content seems indistinguishable from editorial. What’s more, that’s
exactly the point at some level.

It
isn’t exactly a leap. Newspapers frequently run special advertorial sections
from advertisers. Those have long been accepted, yet the updated version of
advertorial from the Web is at times held to higher
standards.

WaPo
is taking a middle-ground approach to the creation of the content. A rep said in
some cases marketers would create it, but the publisher would also offer
services via its advertiser team. Editorial resources will not be
used.

Brands can either create content on their own or tap into the Post’s
five person ad innovations team to work with them to develop the page. Many
publishers running sponsored content brag that the secret sauce is allowing
advertisers the same tools as editors get. Brands won’t have the keys to the
Post’s CMS, instead submitting to the ad innovations team to integrate
content.

“A
brand can choose to utilize our access to resources — our ad innovations team
can contract out to freelancers to develop a particular content associated with
brand – or the adv supplies the content as well,”  said Steve Stup, vp of
digital sales for the Post. “It’s the advertiser’s choice, as it’s an intimate
program working with advertiser.”

According to Stup, brands don’t have any limits on how many posts can
run at a particular time, however, there’s only one on the homepage per day. The
Post has a direct sales team of 26 around the country selling these packages,
but Stup declined to say how much packages run.

As of
now, CTIA is the only advertiser running on the site, though Stup said there are
five or six who have shown “a lot of interest.”

This
marks the first time a major U.S. newspaper has opened up its
platform for brands to create and distribute
content.

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