Gini Dietrich

The ROI of Brand Journalism

By: Gini Dietrich | February 11, 2014 | 

The ROI of Brand JournalismBy Gini Dietrich

We are at the end of our series on brand journalism.

If you’ve missed any part of it, you can find the trend, breathing new life into old content, user-generated contentsponsored content, and long-form content by clicking on any of those links.

Thanks for sticking through it with me. It’s been really helpful for me to think through the types of changes we want to do to Spin Sucks, but also the new capabilities we can offer to clients.

I hope it’s done the same for you.

Today I want to talk about the ROI of brand journalism (that’s return-on-investment, for those of you who don’t want to look it up).

A Quick Story

I’m full of stories this week, aren’t I? It must be Clay Morgan rubbing off on me. He has stories for every situation in life.

A couple of weeks ago, he and I were in a new business meeting.

We were talking to the prospect about why we do integrated communications.

We explained that we don’t do just media relations anymore because more and more journalists are looking for social proof when working with the leaders of organizations.

They want to know you can put a sentence together that isn’t self-serving, which can be demonstrated through a blog.

They want to know you have the social power to help extend the stories they may write that mention you, which can be demonstrated through an engaged Facebook fan page or Twitter stream.

Which is why it’s so important to – at the very least – integrate earned media with owned and shared media.

Then I made the wise crack that I can’t very well co-author Marketing in the Round, a book about integrating your marketing and communications, and not require it of my business and of our client’s organizations.

But Clay, with his vast newspaper experience, explained how journalists are being judged (and promoted – or not) on how many pageviews they generate.

It makes sense, then, they would want the power of your blog and your social media to help them drive pageviews.

Help them help you.

The ROI of Brand Journalism

Which leads me to the ROI of brand journalism.

Take long-form content as an example.

In an American Journalism Review article titled, “Breathing Life into New Stories,” Mary Clare Fischer interviews people who are taking their organizations in this direction.

Glenn Stout, the editor of The Best American Sports Writing series and content editor for the long-form section at SB Nation said about long-form content: 

If you’re only on a page for 10 seconds, you’re not going to be engaged by an ad at all. If you’re on a page for 20 minutes, and an ad can engage you for 10 seconds or 20 seconds or 30 seconds, if it’s got video and nice graphics and music and everything, ha ho, that’s a whole different thing. That’s a business model that can go forward.

Minus the “ha ho” (which I kind of love), really think about that for a minute.

If you blog now and the average time a person spends on your site is one and a half minutes (the average for Spin Sucks), they’re likely not going to be engaged by an ad or sponsored content that takes up a third of their visit time.

But if you have long-form content combined with compelling videos and podcasts and an engaged community, it’s highly likely the 30 second piece of sponsored content is going to make it into their purview because they’re spending significantly more time on your site.

And that, my friends, is the ROI of brand journalism.

Increased pageviews and increased time spent on your site equals money, which is why journalists want to know how you can help them do the same.

If you’re willing to test sponsored content (or native advertising) and sponsorships and other non-invasive forms of advertising, prove you can increase pageviews and the amount of time a visitor spends with your content and you can charge more.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Loved this whole series. Sad to see that it’s over but knowing this team of crazies I am sure that you have something equally awesome up your sleeves for next time.

  • In my “vast” newspaper experience, there is a “back end issue” that we don’t control. 

    A car dealer asked how many cars an ad in my paper would sell. I told him none. I said the ad will bring people to the dealership. It’s up to him and his sales reps to sell the cars.

    The backside of brand journalism or branded content is the “other stuff” that, once the people are at your website, will complete the sale. 

    But you are so right… good branded journalism will pull people to a company’s site and KEEP them there…. creating an increase in page views, unique visitors, time on sight…. and it will result in $$$ IF the sales piece is handled well.

    Oh dear. Branded content + the proper sales tools. Sounds like more integration.

  • LSSocialEngage I enjoyed the series too. And now I am going to feel strangely compelled to work “ha ho” into a sentence somehow. Quite the challenge!

  • biggreenpen ha! So true. I tried desperately to use Ha ho in the above comment but it just didn’t do justice to the nature of Ha ho as described in the post, so I too am compelled and I continue the quest. Best of luck to you. When you succeed I’d love to hear it 🙂

  • This series has been so helpful & interesting…Thank you!  Sidenote, I think we should change “ha ho” to “bada bing” 🙂

  • ClayMorgan  YES!

  • LSSocialEngage  Oh jeez. No pressure!

  • biggreenpen LSSocialEngage  LOL!! Ha ho!

  • ClayMorgan  Oh no. Integration. This sucks.

  • ClayMorgan  ZOMG, I love what you’ve said about ads actually selling anything.

  • lizreusswig  I’m good with that!

  • susancellura

    Gini, I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and I thank you for sharing it. Many ideas and constructive thoughts have been conjured up by reading and thinking about these items. And, everyone’s comments are so insightful. These posts and conversations help me have “deep” conversations with others when discussing their social media, web and press plans.

  • ClayMorgan  Ok, I posted this about an hour ago, but Livefrye is trying to silence me, so I’m trying again (FREEDOM OF SPEECH!!!! I SHALL NOT BE SILENCED!)

    Integration is crucial to preserve the consistency of experience….and I think in digital advertising that is the single biggest area where organizations go wrong, they don’t maintain a consistent experience for the consumer throughout the cycle. Some go halfway, but very few take a step back and look at all the ways that the user might engage with their brand after viewing their ad. So many great ideas fail because of lack of follow through in this way. So ok, you see a great ad and you click, do you go to a landing page with a clear call to action and consistent experience to continue to engage and keep you interested? Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t……but, what if you see an ad and you don’t click, instead you google the company name, what do you find? A website that preserves the first experience/impression that interested you? A facebook page that does the same? Another entry door to get you as an ad viewer back to where they wanted in the first place.

  • susancellura  That makes me happy to hear. Hope you’re feeling even better today!

  • susancellura

    ginidietrich Thank you and I am! Slow but steady wins the race!

  • ginidietrich lizreusswig I like ’em both!

  • margieclayman

    I dunno Gini…that’s not a sure thing so far as ROI goes. I see a lot of sponsored content on all kinds of sites, but I never click on them. However, I do read the entire article. I suspect there are quite a few people like me who go to a website to read something interesting, and once that’s done, they bounce. Moreover, creating long-form content requires more man-hours (research, not just the writing), so you are banking on enough people clicking your sponsored content *and purchasing something from you* to offset that increased investment, non?

  • Very good thoughts on page views, but it’s hard to prove that people are staying on your page without the engagement. An active comment stream (like you see on this blog) is only one sign that people are staying on your page longer. 
    Social shares is actually another. The more shares, the more exposure. (And ultimately the more readership you can prove to potential advertisers.)

  • ClayMorgan ginidietrich You were right! He’s full of stories for every occasion. But that’s not a bad thing at all!

  • Very nice series, Gini. When does the movie come out? Ha ho!

  • Word Ninja  Ha ho!

  • JRHalloran  You can tell by time spent on site and bounce rate.

  • For some reason, I especially like the part about adding video. 🙂
    –Tony Gnau
    p.s. started my own series today that will be turned into a long-form piece on the types of videos people should produce. My next five posts will probably be focused on this.

  • T60Productions  I just read your blog post about it!

  • ginidietrich

    T60Productions Ha ho!

  • I’m getting the increased time per page and pageviews, but we aren’t presenting the right calls to action yet. I hope to build in a few more of those as we “complete” blog series that can be made into downloadable PDFs (and request name/emails along the way).

    But we are starting to get good search results from the blog pieces, so seeing SOME benefits of this long form content strategy.

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