How Localish has built its engaged audience and why branded content is so important to its future

When branded content works — and it surely can — clients are positioned as subject-matter experts and brands can get a leg up on others in their field.

Branded content will be a topic at the upcoming Selling Digital Marketing Services conference in Chicago on July 30-Aug. 1.

At the conference, Michael Koenigs, Executive Producer, ABC Owned Television Stations / Localish and Julia Campbell, LMA/LMC Branded Content Project Lead, will talk about how branded content as a service applies in each stage of the marketing funnel.

Attendees will also learn how the Branded Content Project is helping facilitate additional growth, engagement and success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes.

We caught up with both Michael and Julia:

Julia, tell us a little about what the Branded Content project is and who you are working with right now.

The Branded Content Project is designed to help facilitate additional growth, engagement and success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes. The project was developed through a unique partnership between the LMC and the LMA. It is part of a $1 million investment from the Facebook Journalism Project to help more than 2,000 local newsrooms among LMA and LMC members better understand, develop and implement revenue streams through branded content both on and off Facebook. A call for applications was announced in January looking for strong local branded content initiatives. Applications came from LMA and LMC members and non-members alike, with close to 40 entries from across the U.S. and as far away as India and Norway.

After five rounds of the selection process and careful consideration given to those projects that were financially successful, scalable to other markets or media types and could provide lessons for the industry — our seven Alpha partners were selected. The seven Amazing Alpha Partners that will be leading industry innovation are ABC Owned Television Station Group and Localish, The Dallas Morning News, Graham Media Group, McClatchy, Shaw Media, The Texas Tribune, and WRAL.

These seven Alpha partners have begun the first steps toward innovating and testing within their initiatives with guidance from advertiser market research conducted by Magid. The next three months will be a fast-paced and filled with exciting experimentation to find the best branded content strategies for all local media groups – big and small.

Michael, what is ABC’s Localish brand working on? 

Localish is at a really exciting point for our brand. We’ve hit 200 million lifetime video views across platforms and have almost 400,000 social fans across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. We’ll be celebrating our first anniversary in July and we’re looking ahead to what we want to accomplish in Year 2. We’re close to launching a few new series (some of which already have been sponsored!) and starting to look more at long-form content on linear platforms and YouTube.

We’re also thrilled to be participating in the Branded Content Project. It’s given us the opportunity to explore new territory for our brand and collaborate with other publishers to share what we’ve learned in our first year and see how they’re approaching branded.

Michael, any early results you can report? 

We’re focused on experiential marketing as a way to build sales relationships and drive revenue growth. Since Localish is such a new brand and we’re telling stories in ways that feel distinctly different from traditional broadcast products, the more we can do to expose buyers to who we are, the better. We believe that letting potential clients immerse themselves in the world of Localish and getting to know our creators will help them see all the possibilities for ways to align their brands with ours.

Michael, what are some of the top takeaways for the team at Localish? 

We have a lot of experience covering events or even partnering with other organizations, but planning something from the ground up is new for us. We’re trying to be very thoughtful about our goals and making sure that it’s a worthy investment for the future of our brand – not just about throwing a great party. Our involvement with the Branded Content Project gives us the ability to talk directly with other publishers about their experience in the live event space, something that would potentially be otherwise challenging. We’re grateful for the opportunity to learn from them and then share our takeaways so we as an industry can all grow together.

Julia, what’s next with the Brand Content project overall?

We’re in our test period now with our seven Alphas. Each is experimenting and pushing forward different additions to their initiatives to grow revenue. We’ll be reporting their initial results at Elevate! in Chicago this September. We’ll also be hosting a Branded Content Workshop at Elevate! and announcing the opening of our Beta Round where we’ll be taking in 20 more publishers. One other thing to keep an eye out for is our research report on our advertiser focus groups hosted by Magid. We’ll be releasing those findings in August. For continued updates on the project, the latest data and new resources, visit sellbranded.com.

You can register for the Selling Digital Marketing Services conference by clicking here.

LMA’s work with the Branded Content Project is part of Accelerate Local, a transformative, purpose-built entity committed to ensuring the future of local news by discovering, researching, testing and delivering new business models that can profitably scale.