The Local Media Consortium and the Local Media Association announced that TAPinto, along with 21 other local news organizations nationwide, has been selected to participate in the beta group of the Branded Content Partnership, a partnership between LMC and the LMA, and funded by a $1 million investment from the Facebook Journalism Project that commenced in March 2019 with an initial alpha test group. The announced organizations will receive grant money to test and develop successful and sustainable branded content offerings and revenue streams.
“We are thrilled to have been selected to take part in the Branded Content Partnership,” said TAPinto CEO and Publisher Michael Shapiro. “When we started TAPinto as a single site, we quickly realized that innovation was needed in the local media space in order to support truly local news reporting. We were one of the first hyperlocal media organizations to use branded content and are looking forward to sharing our knowledge and learning from our fellow media organizations to help continue to fill the void in local news,” he continued.
The LMA and LMC define branded content as any sales initiative that uses content to engage the user and is paid for by a client who participates as part of the content, helps supply the content, or sponsors the content that is distributed across any platform.
"We received applications encompassing every media type from all over the world, and ultimately selected the Branded Content betas that best demonstrate the ability to help others learn from their initiatives while learning more about branded content strategies themselves," said Julia Campbell, Branded Content Project lead. "As part of the Branded Content Project initiative, these beta testers will build on the knowledge gleaned from the alpha projects, participate in case studies and contribute to white papers to explain their findings and share their results with the broader local media industry."
The call for applications was announced in September and closed October 21 seeking groups with a mature branded content program. Applications were received from LMA and LMC members and non-members, with entries from across the U.S. and as far away as Africa and Argentina. The Branded Content Project beta group includes the following (listed in alphabetical order):
- ARA Newspaper (ara.cat)
- Cox Media Group
- Entravision Communications
- GateHouse Media (now Gannett)
- Growing Community Media
- Lifestyle Frisco
- Mundo Hispanico
- Narcity Media
- Newsday Media Group
- Portland Press Herald – Masthead Maine Media Network
- Skyline (SCNG Media)
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch
- Swift Communications
- The Denver Post
- The Philadelphia Inquirer
- The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)
- The Seattle Times
- Tribune Publishing
- Village Media Inc.
- WBOC (Draper Media)
Many of the organizations will focus their testing on the common challenges identified across all organizations in the first round, including the need for education of the sales teams and advertisers, proving ROI for clients, and improving the process and workload of branded content teams. In addition to interacting with and drawing from the alpha group's discoveries, planned beta initiatives include working with brands and advertisers to test scalability in other markets, improving usability or UX, implementing better analytics or reporting, adding additional training for sales and news, adding social video production, gaining assistance with in-market group sales events for clients and purchasing technology for improved production.