Wired Brand Lab, which launched its first native content programs in 2015, has already become a significant revenue driver for the media brand.. Wired publisher and chief revenue officer Kim Kelleher told an audience at Publishing Executive's Evolution Summit last fall that the lab, which provides native content strategy, creation, and distribution for clients, accounts for 20% of Wired’s overall revenue. Kelleher attributed that success to Wired’s high quality content, which retains the magazine’s voice, and the low infrastructure costs of the Brand Lab.
Key to creating the best content at reasonable costs was the Lab’s hybrid approach to talent acquisition, said Kelleher. The inherent costs of hiring a large in-house staff to handle all of Wired’s native content would have been significant, explained Kelleher. Whereas, hiring new freelancers to write content would have diluted the Wired voice needed in its native content. Kelleher said the solution was to engage long-time freelancers in the work of content marketing.
“Let’s be honest; 60% of any brand’s content isn’t coming from someone on the masthead anymore. No one can afford to have that kind of infrastructure. . . What we decided to do [at Wired Brand Labs] was tap into that 60% of our content contributors. These are writers, journalists, reporters, videographers, producers -- you name it -- and they have worked with Wired for a long time,” said Kelleher.
Kelleher explained that these freelance contributors are familiar with the Wired brand and can reliably convey that voice, but don't come with the high price tag of a large in-house staff.
Quality is also critical for the success of Wired Brand Lab, which means not only great content from reliable freelancers, but also transparency with readers. Kelleher said that in order to maintain the division between editorial and paid content, Wired clearly labels all branded content. Additionally, Wired puts some restrictions on the degree to which freelancers travel between editorial and native projects. “Our rule of thumb is that contributors cannot write for any of our [editorial] distributions three months before or three months after they do paid [content],” said Kelleher.
Kelleher said that so far the balance of freelance and in-house staff has worked well. “The content has to perform well. I don’t have a big bank account to force impressions and views on our native content, so the quality has to be there. What we’ve seen with this model is it performs really, really well.”
To learn more about the strategy behind Wired Brand Lab, join Publishing Executive at the upcoming Native Advertising Summit in NYC on March 16th. Keynote speaker Maya Draisin, associate publisher & head of marketing at Wired, will discuss how the Brand Lab was formed and share the tactics that power its success. Email publisher Matt Steinmetz at email@example.com for details on attending or sponsoring this event.