Branded Content Project Releases Research on State of Content Marketing in 2020

The Branded Content Project, an initiative by the Local Media Consortium, Local Media Association, and Facebook Journalism Project, released the results of a report on content marketing in collaboration with Borrell Associates Inc., which found that, despite the effect Covid-19 had on businesses, content marketing remained relatively steady and is projected to be more of a priority in 2021.

With expenditures on advertising falling by double-digit percentages in 2020, the report, “Sizing the Content Marketing Opportunity,” projects that the amount spent on content marketing will be down just 1.5%, to $63.3 billion. The decline is due almost wholly to the retraction of marketing activity in a few dozen categories that have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Travel/tourism, live entertainment, sporting events, clothing, and recreation have reduced content marketing expenditures an average of 19% due to business slowdowns or shutdowns.

Content marketing has increasingly become a popular option for advertising for businesses, including small businesses. According to a Borrell Associates’ October 2020 SMB panel on content marketing, 46% of small businesses said they used branded content in some form; 45% said it had become more of a priority in 2020; and 56% said it would be more of a priority in 2021.

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“Sizing the Content Marketing Opportunity” measured how vast the content marketing space is, what types of media benefit most and what kind of businesses are most inclined to utilize it and at what rates. Additional highlights from the report include:

  • Other industry categories have increased spending between 5% and 9%. They include many that are compelled to educate and inform the public: mental health services, insurance medical doctors, colleges & universities, financial services, and two of the biggest content marketing spenders – real estate agents and city, state, and local governments.
  • Digital platforms are the biggest magnet for content marketing for digital’s ability to “go deep” on content without the added expense of buying more airtime or print space. Digitally placed content marketing accounts for two-thirds of all spending. The next-largest media categories are television and direct mail.
  • The $63.3 billion estimate for 2020 is conservative when you consider internal costs that businesses incur to generate and distribute content without outside assistance.
  • The top five spending categories revolve around credit and finance, telecom, real estate and automotive.

In 2019, the LMC, LMA and the Facebook Journalism Project launched the Branded Content Project, an initiative developed to give local media organizations the opportunity to define, develop and grow branded content revenue strategies. As it prepared to expand the next phase of the Branded Content Project, the group engaged Borrell Associates to measure and analyze the business of content marketing.

“Following the success of our Branded Content Project, we wanted to see whether content marketing was still making an impact for local media during the pandemic, particularly as the industry has been hit especially hard by Covid-19,” said Julia Campbell, General Manager of The Branded Content Project. “We were pleased to see that content marketing has remained fairly steady and will remain a revenue-generating opportunity for local media companies as we move into the new year.”

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The LMC and the LMA launched The Branded Content Project in March 2019 with a $1M investment from the Facebook Journalism Project. With participation by 35 media outlets, the project generated $24M in local revenue.

Last month, the LMC and the LMA announced a second phase of The Branded Content Project, a full-service branded content product development, content creation, education, distribution, and monetization resource for local publishers. It offers shared services, training, tools, and technology to media organizations interested in creating or growing a branded content initiative. Media outlets can visit to preview ten 52-week branded content series categories, such as Women’s Wellness or Home Sweet Home, in a recently launched storefront. This new e-commerce platform, powered by Distributed Media Lab, provides a marketplace for local media companies to easily access branded content campaign creative assets, sales kits, and distribution options, plus training and best practices.  Additional content will be available early next year.

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