Advertisers looking to escape the dreaded advertorial trap and give consumers content they’ll actually read has helped create the boom in native advertising or branded content. At the same time, publishers continue to seek ways to make their editorial work harder for them.
Fortune is rolling out a new response to this dilemma in the form of a program called Fortune TOC—Trusted Original Content. Similar to licensed editorial content, TOC involves creating original, Fortune-branded editorial content (articles, video, newsletters) exclusively for marketers to distribute on their own platforms. The publisher has set a price range from $250,000 to $1 million.
“As marketers fight to engage with users [and] readers in a noisy, competitive world, marketers have all become publishers,” said Jed Hartman, group publisher of Time Inc. news and business, with oversight for Fortune. Capital One has signed on as the first client, using Fortune to create content about small-business strategies.
TOC represents the first formalized process by a Time Inc. title to make good on outgoing CEO Laura Lang’s promise of “next-generation” advertising products that join its magazine content with marketing in new ways. Time Inc. titles like People and InStyle have run ads that combine their own content with an advertiser’s message.
“There have always been ways to license content,” said Paul Caine, evp, chief revenue officer and group president, advertising at Time Inc. “But what’s emerged is the ability for advertisers to populate their owned and earned media with our content. That’s part of what some of these solutions represent. What we need to do is create easy ways for them to get to our content.”
While brand-created content has gotten better, it often falls short of quality editorial product. By creating the TOC edit, Fortune ostensibly will avoid that pitfall.
Yet creating content expressly for an advertiser creates other questions for editorial, particularly at a prestige title. That’s why Fortune insists TOC would keep church-and-state separation—clients would agree on the topic and how the material is distributed but wouldn’t see the content until it’s ready to run. Like any piece of editorial, TOC content goes through the normal Fortune editing process, and editors have the final say over it. And Fortune TOC is likely to rely on trusted freelancers, which will keep its staff writers far away from the process. “Nothing we’re doing is compromising editorial integrity,” Caine said.
Will advertisers want to give up that much control over the process? Fortune is betting that the ability to run its original content will make the trade-off worth it for some. “They take white-label content, but they would so much rather have fresh, new branded content,” Hartman said. “They like the brand rub-off, and they like the exclusivity.”