Content has always been at the heart of advertising, from a catchy tagline at the end of a TV commercial to in-depth whitepapers ready to be downloaded by enterprise CIOs and CTOs.
Now, B2B companies need to create content for paid channels, owned channels, and earned channels. With the demands of creating content increasing, it can be difficult for brands to keep up. Over the past several years, publishers have created their own solution for the advertisers they partner with: in-house content studios.
Supply and Demand for Branded Content Studios
The demand for branded content studios is being met across verticals and media types.
According to What’s New in Publishing, as of 2018 the number of publishers building out branded content offerings had reached 600. SaaS companies are talking about productivity tips, startups are pushing their innovation and VCs are positioning their insights — all through content created by publishers for the brand.
The value is there, and it seems branded content studios are the normal for paid positioning through native advertising.
“More so-called trade publications and business publishers are investing in branded content studios of their own,” writes Olivia Morley at DigiDay. “And they say their audiences and data insights make them ideal partners for B2B marketers.” According to a subscriber survey at Business Journals (which publishes over 40 locally-oriented sites, like L.A. Biz), more than three quarters of their readers would like to see more branded content on their platform.
Using branded content studios may be efficient for brands, but it is particularly profitable for publishers. According to Morley, content packages at Business Journals range from $5k to $70k. The studio employs just five full time staff members and works with major B2B brands, like Deloitte and Bank of America.
But what does branded content coming from these studios look like in practice?
The Growing World of Branded Content
Publishers do clarify when articles are branded and paid for. But the content itself largely reads like any of the many ‘how to’s’ or ‘what’s new’ articles on these B2B platforms.
Fast Company, for example, published a video profiling a startup accelerator focused on city tech and design.
The Wall Street Journal — through its WSJ Custom Content studio — worked with Slack on a campaign called ‘Channeling Innovation’. The campaign launched a number of case studies and ‘how to’ articles designed to spark conversation around collaboration and enterprise operations.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) lists more than 60 branded content studios, ranging from legacy print publications to digital natives. Examples that would work for a B2B audience include:
- The Trust covers both The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s platforms, translating into in-depth campaigns across multiple media formats.
- FastCo. Works bills itself as ‘progressive’ business news, letting brands push content around innovation, social campaigns and more.
- The Business Journals Content Studio is positioned locally to reach small businesses across the US.
- Bloomberg Media Group focuses on business news, meaning branded B2B content has a natural fit on the platform.
Outside of these digitally-oriented publications, most major news publications and channels now have branded content studios available for their advertisers — The Washington Post, The New York Times, Hearst and CNN among them.
Plenty of podcast publishers (like Gimlet, Midroll and PMCC Inc.) have launched their own brand studios aimed at creating compelling audio around longform native advertising.
Publishers of all shapes and sizes have seen their advertisers’ need for quality branded content — and their now pitching the solution.