How to Create Sponsored Content that Doesn’t Suck


As a publisher, your advertisers come to you with the expectation that you’re creating valuable sponsored content that brings MQLs to the table and ultimately delivers on their digital dollars spent. It’s a two-way street of trust. They’re counting on you to be the experts at knowing what your readers want to consume, while keeping their own interests in mind.

The dilemma? You need to prioritize preserving the sanctity of your own publication’s reputation, sometimes over making money. So how do you create a win-win scenario? Create GREAT content that advertisers love and trust.

Creating Non-Sucky Content

Here are a few things you can keep in mind to be sure content performs well for your advertisers, while also maintaining high editorial quality:

Show the Right Offers to the Right People

Use segmentation based on analyzed email, site behavior, and user data to create more effective targeting tactics.

Example: If you sell video games, and you have one set of users who enjoy car racing games and another set that likes puzzle games, you’d want to serve each group content based on their respective preferred genres.

Value Transparency

Make sure you indicate what is sponsored content and what isn’t.  When your readers trust you, and the actions they take on sponsored content are more informed, and their value as a lead is higher for your advertisers.

You’ve seen this before. On most media sites, take a quick look at the sidebar and you'll likely see a video that’s very clearly titled “Sponsored Video”.

Make Content Accessible

It shouldn’t take readers multiple steps to get to the content you’re offering them. Yes, it makes sense to have a lead capture mechanism. But if, for instance, you’re having readers fill out a formmake the form easy, short and non-invasive. If readers never get to your content, they never get to your advertisers.

Example: Instead of having your ebook on, "How to Create Content That Doesn’t Suck" behind a form that asks for highly personal and granular pieces of information, consider that form your first point of contact with the reader, and set up system whereby you can gather further user data without being pushy. 

Keep Your Readers Central

Make sure you’re always creating content that’s highly relevant to your readers. It’s no longer about selling yourself, it’s about empowering your audience.

Example: Instead of content about your product or service, think about creating how-tos around related subjects.  For instance, if you sell lawn mowers, your users probably care a lot about the external appearance of their property. You could create an eBook about maintaining the perfect yard. 

Remember Length Matters

With readers being bombarded by content all day long, you should expect a shortened attention span. Try to be as concise and organized as possible with your content, while still providing value (that’s the key!).

Think about organizing your content so that a variety of readers can access the information - “skimmers” and “deeper readers”. For skimmers, things like bold work, or use bullet points or numbers.  For deeper readers, you can expand on those bold points or bullets if they want more information.

Use Anecdotes

Segmenting allows you to create specific audience personas with specific value-sets.  Instead of offering them depersonalized content, use those value-sets to your advantage by highlighting real-life scenarios that your readers can directly relate to.

Example: We just used a few above!

Think Several Steps Ahead

Remember that content doesn’t always have to result in a direct conversion or first-point-of-sale. Content could be focused on educating a reader for a decision they might need or want to make six months down the road, and should be part of a pre-mapped workflow that might end in a direct conversion.

Example: If your advertiser sells running shoes and clothes, you may have an audience segment of “potential or new runners” who want to know how they could train for their first 5K.  You could offer them a video featuring a top runner who walks them through a three-month training schedule.  How does that help? Well, they’re going to need new running shoes at some point.

Follow Your Reader

To that end, make sure you understand when and how your readers make decisionsthe buyer’s journey. Think about creating supporting content that may lead to that decision down the road, or a series of content pieces that, once consumed, may lead to a direct lead or conversion.

Example: That new runner, does she tend to buy new running clothes at the beginning of the outdoor running season for Boston?  Or does she buy them right before a race? If you can understand her buying patterns, you can continue to time your sponsored content in a way that maximizes her schedule - “Top 5 Running Shorts for Summer Races”.

Matching audience behavior and preferences with the content, and then with the right ad, can be a tricky process. In the end, if you’re keeping the advertisers dollars and leads in mind, while also creating content that upholds the integrity of the publication, everyone is happy. It’s a win-win situation all around.

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7 Terrible Commercials You Wish You Could Unwatch


It's no secret that TV commercials -- like cold calls in the middle of dinner -- are usually interruptive.

One minute you're on the edge of your seat watching the nail-biting season finale of your favorite show ... and then boom -- a commercial for toothpaste hits. (Talk about a buzzkill.)

Certainly this wouldn't be a problem if the commercial provided a comparable level of entertainment value, but the hard truth is a lot of them don't. 

If the businesses that still find value in TV ads want to ensure that their commercials aren't doubling as an excuse for viewers to go get a snack or hit the bathroom in between shows, they need to focus on raising the bar.  

To help, we've collected a handful of examples (both old and new) to show you what not to do when conceptualizing a commercial and a few tips on how to supplement a traditional strategy with digital tactics. 

7 Commercials That Missed the Mark

1) Sizzler: 1991 Promotion

We're not sure what's worse: the fact that this commercial was created in the first place or that it's pushing nearly FIVE minutes in length.

However, one thing we know for sure is that the all-American clichés peppered into the first 30 seconds or so are epic. Between the blue collar worker, the young girl posing with a baseball bat in a tree (that we imagine housed an old rope swing), and the noble fisherman, this commercial is so bad it's almost good. 

And while the 90s nostalgia brought about by this throwback is forcing us to go easy on them, there is something to be said about the length we mentioned before. Considering the average person's attention span is now below that of a goldfish, you'll want to keep your marketing and advertising efforts concise in order to be effective. Sorry, Sizzler.

2) Kmart: Giffing Out

We love a good GIF ... but we really can't seem to find it in our hearts to love anything about this 2013 holiday campaign from Kmart. 

For starters, GIFs don't have sound, which makes the looping cackle featured in this commercial even harder to bear. And while we commend them for creating a campaign around a trend, we'd argue that there are more effective ways to leverage GIFs in your marketing and advertising -- like Twitter, for example. To learn more about how to use GIFs on Twitter, check out this article written by one of my colleagues.

3) Stuffies: How Much Stuff Can You Stuff in Your Stuffie?

Please, make it stop.

Whoever thought employing a jingle reminiscent of the "how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood" tongue twister to advertise stuffed animals that double as storage containers was a good idea was very off. 

We're almost at a loss for words, so we're going to allow Twitter to react for us on this one:


4) East Hills Mall: Back to School

Before we comment on this absurdity of this commercial, it's worth noting that this actually went viral. And if you can look past the terrible video quality, there is something positive to be said about East Hills' willingness to highlight its employees. (People want to do business with other people, after all.)

However, if budget is an issue for your business (it is for most), there are plenty of cost-free ways to create content that is well ... more professional. In fact, all you need is a smartphone to leverage social media platforms such as Instagram and Vine to create highly engaging visual content for your business. To help inspire your efforts, check out these tips from real brands that are getting creative with video on Vine. 

5) Luvs: Poop, There It Is

"Alright. So I have this idea. We're going to make a commercial about a cartoon baby pooping contest and put it to the sounds of an early 90s hip hop song."

The fact that some variation of that conversation had to happen in order to make this commercial a reality is actually very disturbing.

And considering it was voted the "Absolute Worst Ad In America" in 2011 by Consumerist, it seems that the rest of the general public agrees.

Next time, stick to real babies ... and focus less on the poop factor. There's more appeal there. 

6) Lamisil: It's Alive

My eyessssss.

Rule #1: Never personify toe fungus. 

Rule #2: Never personify toe fungus and allow it to lift up a toenail, expose the nail bed, and jump in. 

In all seriousness, we get it. Not all products are "sexy." However, there are plenty of businesses out there that are finding creative ways to make their "boring" industry something worth paying attention to. For tips on how to create more interesting content for your not-so-sexy product or service, check out this article.

7) Mentos: Bench

This one almost didn't make the list -- not because it isn't painfully cheesy, but rather there were SO many painfully cheesy Mentos commercials out there that it was hard to narrow it down to this one specifically. 

While I give Mentos points for creativity (I did not expect him to go all DIY pinstripe on us like that), the entire concept of popping a mint to solve your problems is a little bit of a stretch. 

What commercials do you love to hate? Let us know in the comment section below.

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How the #USOpen fared on Twitter

While @JordanSpieth won the #USOpen in fantastic fashion, golfers and fans flocked to Twitter for every shot, putt and more during this year’s tournament.

An exciting finish that saw @DJohnsonPGA just fall short in a bid to win or tie on 18 spurred entertaining conversation on Twitter. Here are a few favorites from pro golfers:

Other athletes joined the convo on Twitter as well:

And all weekend long, @usopengolf shared highlights and big moments on Twitter:


In advance of last Thursday’s opening round, an unfamiliar course at @ChambersBayGolf and first-time #USOpen broadcaster @FOXSports generated significant buzz and anticipation. And @usopengolf shared videos from golfers on what the #USOpen means to them:

Even before the first tee, Twitter featured an early look at Chambers Bay. Several tour golfers including Bubba Watson (@bubbawatson) and Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) treated fans to Periscope broadcasts of their practice rounds leading up to Thursday.

Images used with permission by @bubbawatson and @IanJamesPoulter

Watson also offered fans an early look at the tricky greens with this putt – which immediately went viral:

Opening round interview poll

During the first round, @usopengolf gave fans the chance to vote for a golf pro of their choice to participate in a Twitter-only interview after the first 18 holes.

Dustin Johnson (@DJohnsonPGA ) won, and gave fans an immediate update on the course and his general approach. Watch the video:

U.S. Open on Father’s Day

WIth the #USOpen final round falling on Father’s Day, the USGA (@usopengolf) turned to Twitter for a video series featuring some of the most influential golfers in the world. Each one took the time to discuss their view of what the day means, and it made the Major even more special.

The clips were Tweeted out by @usopengolf. Here are a few favorites:

Golfers also Tweeted their thoughts on Father’s Day too:

Ready for another major tourney? Turn to Twitter for all the news before, during and after the best in the world take on St Andrew’s (@thehomeofgolf) at next month’s British Open (@TheOpen). We’ll leave with you this interview of the #USOpen champ, just after the dramatic finish:

How Marketers Can Get Their Content Listed in the Upcoming Apple News App


After several attempts at getting it right Apple has recently announced their newest foray into News, with their new native app coming this fall. The News app will feature aggregated content that can be customized specifically for the iPhone and iPad experience.

Publishers will have access to a set of tools to shape their content in a way that will provide the optimal viewing experience for readers viewing their content on iOS devices. The reader experience will be enhanced by the fact that it is automatically loaded and readied in the app itself, rather than the user having to wait for content to load.

Gaining access to information on how to participate in this program has been previously hush-hush from what I could tell, So I set out to find some answers.


After some Google–fu, I was able to dig up some documents in the IOS developer library. Buried deep within this is a new section around news publishing. This page will tell you a lot about what News is, how it will be available and announces a new feature called News Publisher. The most important feature to content marketers will be the News Publisher and how to submit your own content.

We all want our content to be distributed in the most simple ways possible for our readers, so Apple is providing this tool for us to use. But the full set of tools that will comprise News Publisher will not be available until the fall. What they have given us in the meantime is an interface to submit our RSS feeds and ensure that our content will show up upon launch in the News app.

In this article I'll explain how the submission process works and how we submitted our agency’s blog and podcast network to be included so that we can make sure we're ready when the app comes out.

There's a hierarchy of publishing that includes publishers, channels and sections. You can add multiple channels to a publisher and each channel can have multiple sections. In the example of our agency, we will have one section for the podcast network and one section for the company blog. (I will probably get more complex than this and break out each series into its own section of a “Podcast” channel, but for the purposes of this demo, it’ll work fine.)

Here’s a step by step walkthrough of how to set this up: 

1) Setup iCloud

The submission process actually begins in the online interface of iCloud. Here is a direct link for how to sign into the interface: Sign in with your Apple ID:


2) Enter Publisher Information

Enter Your Publisher Information. This will also act as the name of your default “Channel”.


Note: You can add multiple channels within a give publisher. You’ll be given access to do that when you have your first RSS feed submitted.


3) Add RSS Reeds

You’ll now be prompted to add RSS feeds. Do that here. You can rename the name “Main” after you add it.


When you are done adding your feeds rename each section to how you want it to be presented on a Mobile Device. I am thinking you will want to keep each one short and sweet. Time will tell when the app actually comes out.


4) Add Your Logo

Now head over to Channel Info, and add a logo. You will want to create a PNG version of your logo that is 256px x 2560px with no padding. The app will add its own padding so your logo should touch the edges on each side.


You can now customize your “Publisher” information if it is different from the name of the channel.


5) Check Confirmation

That’s it! I got the following email the same day after submitting my information.


Because users who subscribe to your content in Apple News will be delivered your content effortlessly, I think this is something we content marketers should not turn a blind eye to. I hope this helps you prepare your content for this exciting new form of distribution!

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