The Local Media Consortium and Local Media Association recently announced results from their first Branded Content Project, which details the ways that local media approaches and profits from sponsored campaigns.
“One thing that surprised us the most is how many folks wanted to participate,” said Julia Campbell, branded content lead at Local Media Association and Local Media Consortium. They were surprised, she said, because companies were required to share revenue, return on investment and other proprietary information.
“I was surprised at the high profit margins and client retention rates of more than 80%, with another 24% reaching 50%,” Campbell said.
Campbell -- who spearheaded the global project -- highlighted the results, published as a white paper, on the way local media organizes the approach and profits from sponsored campaigns.
Companies used a variety of media such as programmatic, social and voice. The study draws on findings from nearly 40 local news organizations that are open to sharing their stories.
This is the first of several studies made possible by the LMC’s and LMA’s joint Branded Content Project, a partnership funded by the Facebook Journalism Project aimed at identifying best practices.
It is part of a $1 million investment to help local newsrooms understand the development of content by highlighting revenue, profit margins, insights, content creation, the business categories most likely to use sponsored campaigns, marketing, and Facebook’s role in branded content initiatives.
ABC-owned Television Station Group, The Dallas Morning News, Graham Media Group and The Texas Tribune, among others, participated in the project.
Among the local publishers, 23.1% generated between $10,000 and $100,000 through branded content in 2018, whereas 20.5% generated between $1 million and $5 million.
Profit margins were strong for branded content initiatives.
More than 30% reported margins of 50% or better, and 72% reported margins better than 21%.
The percentage of digital revenue budgets dedicated to branded content are still low, however. A mere 9% of respondents reported the percentage of their digital budget at more than 50%, and only 9% reported that number at more than 21%.
Branded content annual revenue totals for local publishers in 2018 were nearly evenly split with over 35% hitting at least $500,000 and 17% over $1,000,000.
Profit margins are strong across the board on branded content initiatives. Over 30% report margins of 50% or better and 72% have margins better than 21%.
Percentages of digital revenue budgets dedicated to branded content are still low. Only 9% of respondents report that the percentage of their digital budget was over 50%, and only 9% reported that number was over 21%.
Many organizations are balancing a client count between 1 and 25, with 45% reporting their count in that range. More than 27% of respondents claim between 26 and 50, while another 18% fall between 51 and 100 clients.
A small portion of news organizations manage more than 100 clients.
More than 97% said they use social media and 87% use owned-and-operated digital such as their website, nearly 31% use external digital media, 38.5% use print, 12.8% use voice, 10.3% use television, 5.1% use radio, and 5.1% use OTT.
When asked whether the revenue sold was primarily locally sold versus national-direct or national-programmatic, the responses leaned toward local. More than 73% primarily sold branded content locally -- not just local, but hyperlocal.
Most branded content, at 92%, is produced in-house. More than 55% reported that sales and marketing department handle the creation, with 38% who reported that the news team handles creation.
About 92% of publishers reported they most often use Facebook for content distribution, followed by 79% who use sponsored posts and 64% who say they use Facebook as a promotional vehicle. Facebook Live opportunities were reportedly used by 34%.