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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

5 Reasons every publisher should open a custom content studio

March 9, 2016 | By Theresa Cramer, Editor– EContent @TheresaCramer

Custom content studios are not new, but they sure are hot! In March we found out that New York Magazine is building out its own content studio. In February, Grantland founder Bill Simmons announced he is getting into the branded content game, as did The Irish Times. It’s safe to say that “branded content” is no longer a bad word (or phrase, as the case may be) in media circles. That being said, not every publisher has the know-how to start up their own content studio.

ICMIn May, my book Inside Content Marketing, will hit the shelves. Like many other books on the subject it will take a look at what it takes to be a great content marketer—from strategy to measurement—but one thing defiantly sets it apart. The book is not just for marketers. Inside Content Marketing also takes a look at content marketing from the perspective of publishers who are now in competition with their former advertisers.

Here are five insights from Inside Content Marketing that should inspire publishers of all sizes to get into the custom content creation business:

  • Too many publishers are still missing out on sponsored content revenue.
    “In 2014, Digital Content Next found that 73% of its members currently offered native advertising solutions to advertisers. Yet, the Cxense “Extraordinary Insight” survey found that just 20% of respondents were running native ads. Clearly there’s a big gap between the premium brands that make up the DCN membership (think ESPN and NBC Universal) and the rest of the media world—and that’s a crying shame.
  • Brands still need you.
    Publishers have what most brands do not: Reach. The typical brand does not have an audience to rival the average publisher. In 2015, Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, predicted that brands were willing to start paying to promote their content. The time is right to start targeting advertisers interested in running sponsored content on your site.
  • Your audience is ready for sponsored content.
    “The gist: As long as you’re honest and transparent with your audience they will actually appreciate your native advertising endeavors. Would you rather have a banner pop up every time you go to a site, one of those annoying ads that suddenly starts playing a video extolling the benefits of Product X, or a well-crafted piece of content that reels you in with its quality? If the last option sounds preferable to you, it probably sounds best to your audience as well.”
  • You already have all the tools you need.
    You have writers, an audience, and a distribution network. Most importantly, you have editorial expertise that many brands still don’t have. Now all you have to do is put a price on all that you bring to the custom content table.
  • Sponsored content created by publishers performs better than content created by brands.
    “A study by Chartbeat and The New York Times found ‘that most Paid Post content produced by T Brand Studio during the research period proved to be significantly more engaging than the content supplied by third parties.’ In other words, research confirms that content created by The Times’ staff out-performed content provided by brands.”

Of course there’s more to launching a custom content studio—like establishing guidelines and editorial boundaries, all of which Inside Content Marketing delves deeper into—but these five insights should inspire you to start thinking more seriously about offering your content creation expertise to brands.


By day, I am the editor of EContent, where I cover the world of digital media and marketing. By night I am a reader and writer of books, NPR addict, and avid gardener. Find out more at TheresaCramer.com or @TheresaCramer on Twitter.

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