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.