On Tuesday, the Washington Post stepped into the sponsored content fray with a new platform, BrandConnect, that lets marketers create content and publishes it on the newspaper’s homepage.

Washington Post BrandConnect

The Washington Post on Tuesday launched BrandConnect, a sponsored content platform that “connects marketers with the Washington Post audience in a trusted environment.” The content appears on the Washington Post home page, among regular articles, and is denoted by a blue box that says “Sponsor Generated Content.” With the new platform, the Washington Post appears to be the first national newspaper to open up to this type of content on its website.

“With BrandConnect, marketers become the content creators and get premium placement through our site,” Steve Hills, president and GM of the Post, said in a press release published at Poynter. “We are excited to create a way for marketers to create enhanced visibility, while maintaining our position as a trusted source for content of all kinds.” According to Digiday, which first reported the news, marketers will create the content in some cases but WaPo will “also offer serivces via its advertiser team. Editorial resources will not be used.”

The first client is CTIA – The Wireless Association, whose post is here. The post’s headline is “Revving Up Mobile Economies” and is about an app called Mobile Main Street, developed by West Virginia University. CTIA has been promoting Mobile Main Street since December. According to the release, CTIA “will provide weekly content through blog posts, video case studies, and infographics related to wireless communication.”

Sponsored content — also known as native advertising — has been the subject of a lot of debate recently. BuzzFeed, for example, uses sponsored content as a substitute for traditional advertising, while the well-known blogger Andrew Sullivan has questioned whether it’s ethical (Note: We’ll be discussing this at paidContent Live on April 17 in New York, via a panel called “The Future of Native Advertising: Blurring Ads and Content,” with BuzzFeed president Jon Steinberg and others).

The Atlantic ran into trouble in January when it published a sponsored post about the Church of Scientology on its website. After massive criticism, the Atlantic pulled the post and updated its guidelines for sponsored content.

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  1. Nate the great Tuesday, March 5, 2013

    I hope GigaOm studies the WP’s methods and copies the better ones. At this point there’s no clear indicator on the posts that GigaOm sells to advertisers. This one, for example:

    1. If you’re the same Nate that wrote that ill-informed blog post this morning, you’re of course well aware that the particular post you mention here was an unpaid guest post. If you’re not the same Nate, you should understand that this particular post was an unpaid guest post, and any content that is sponsored is always clearly labeled.

  2. Dorian Benkoil Thursday, March 21, 2013

    Was this post sponsored by the Paid Content conference? (And, more seriously, will the panel you mention be streamed for those of us who can’t be in NY that day?)

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