How To Up Your Content Studio's Game

It’s no big revelation that publishers are under the gun to diversify their revenue sources in the face of diminishing ad revenues and low profit margins. Some have successfully derived enough revenue from digital advertising, but even that segment of ad budgets faces strong headwinds, courtesy of Facebook and Google. 

In the face of these changes, the largest publishers in the business — Meredith, Reuters, The New York Times Media Company and USA Today — have built their own content studios to profit from marketing’s newest darling: content. These publishers, and others half their size, are angling for a piece of the lucrative branded content pie that’s estimated to reach $7 billion this year. 

As this market matures, however, publishers are dealing with growing pains and increased competition. Beyond putting out great content and cultivating the audience that advertisers want, here are four things that could help your content studio remain relevant, competitive and profitable:  



Don’t Dupe Readers 

There’s a pull to make branded content appear as editorial as possible, since the goal is for the content to retain the same tone that readers love and have come to expect from a given publisher. However, this tactic can be viewed as borderline deceptive to non-savvy readers who believe the article, social post or video is an objective piece without outside influence.

Being clear with readers is always the right way to go. Blurring the lines can have an adverse effect and cause a chip in your most valuable asset: trust. Many publishing leaders today, such as HuffPost, even have a special section that delineates their custom branded content.

Be transparent as to what is paid for and what is editorial. You’ll likely find readers will trust you more and be more receptive to what you’re delivering. 

Be Marketing Strategists, Not Merely Content Creators 

We’re seeing more marketers go straight to publishers with a request such as: “I want you to give us more than just one-time creative and delivery. I want a full-blown marketing strategy that includes the creative components, as well as a distribution strategy for a year-long campaign.”

In essence, the marketers are looking to the publisher to produce the content and take it a step further by developing a unique strategy that extends beyond their media properties. Publishers looking to gain a competitive edge should approach brands with that cohesive strategy already in hand. 

Add An Experiential Marketing Component

Another way to enrich your studio and become a more attractive partner is to complement your online offerings with creative ideas for offline activities that help your clients deliver their messages and narratives in the physical world. For instance, The New York Times — through its acquisition of experiential agency Fake Love — showcased Kia’s new car  in a starring role in a unique noir-themed performance even tat the NeueHouse in Los Angeles.

With CMOs prioritizing experiential, and experiential marketing budgets expected to increase by 50% in the next two to four years, it’s easy to see why publishers are making it part of their package. We’re already seeing publishers snatching up well-known experiential firms.

Wow Them With Success On The Back End

Publishers are known to present every data points in the book during an RFP to convince brands they have the right audience. However, this measurement zeal doesn’t always transfer to post-campaign reporting. After investing in a major content partnership, marketers want more than impression counts and average scroll length; they want publishers to deliver on their content studio’s promise to produce deeper connections with audiences and impact their brand’s core KPIs.

Publishers should lead the charge in setting a measurement strategy that reflects marketers’ critical brand metrics, such as demonstrating that impressions led to an increase in trust and awareness. That’s why the marketer partnered with you, and it’s a surefire way land a repeat contract.

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