Thursday, January 13, 2011

Branded and Better: Yahoo! News

Today's online audiences are looking for experiences that are more personal, social and engaging than ever — and that's just as true for advertising as it is for anything else.

This is the age of branded programming.

Uncompromising integrity is central to the success of such entertainment. A dynamic understanding of audiences’ desire to know, plus active conversations with advertising partners during the development of these highly customized programs, ensures that the programs will fulfill the needs of both the audience and the advertiser; neither is left out.

At Yahoo! News, we've become not just a thoughtful aggregator of newswire articles but the robust home of “only on Yahoo!” features and content. At the heart of this transformation: We've leveraged original news video, broad social activation interactive polling, exclusive reporting and analysis, and real-time blogging to appeal to a broad, highly engaged audience — all while uniquely serving the needs of advertising partners.

In the news realm, content providers can serve advertising partners' objectives by putting the brand messaging within an important, timely news frame. It's this editorially legitimate context that elevates the credibility of branded news programming far above mere "advertorial" content (which draws increasing skepticism from an ever more sophisticated Web audience).

Working creatively with agencies and advertisers, the savviest content providers can find unique ways to align their programs with brands without compromising the editorial integrity of their own products.

At Yahoo! News, one of our most unique and comprehensive branded programs is “Weekend Edition,” sponsored by Buick. It's a tour-de-force of partner and original content, including three distinct video series starring, respectively, Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes, irrepressible road warrior Harry Hurt, and heroic adventurer Jim Brasher. The show has become a destination, helping to reinvent our site on the weekends with the lighter lifestyle-oriented news programming that our internal insights tell us is popular with audiences after a long workweek.

“Weekend Edition” features several levels of innovative brand integration: using Buick’s focus on “discovery” in the opening bumper with the tagline “Weekend Edition, Discovered by Buick”; a branded segment after each video that provides an actionable item or “did you know” about something featured in the video; and, in the travel portions of the video, use of Buick cars and trucks in — just where the cars' presence was organic and natural.

This year, our approach yielded many of the Web's top-performing original video programs:

  • “Who Knew?,” sponsored by Toyota, and “Upgrade Your Life,” sponsored by Lexus. These include clever post-video branded segments that are relevant to the original video.
  • Second Act,” sponsored by General Mills, about people who have reinvented themselves. A very active, athletic baby boomer was profiled in one episode, tying in with a Dannon tagline that focused on having strong bones.
  • Odd News,” sponsored by Allstate. The closing segment of the show covers a “Mayhem Moment” to align with Allstate’s "Mayhem" theme.

Ultimately, it's Yahoo! News' world-class editorial staff that empowers us to stay true to our independent news judgment while delivering our advertisers’ objectives.

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