HuffPo Pushes Further Into Sponsored Content

Publishers are crazy for native advertising, but they’re stuck with a problem: Who is going to create it?

That’s why publishers like Vice and Gawker have begun partnered content-creation arms. Add The Huffington Post to the mix. This week it is officially taking the wraps off its new in-house branded content agency, HuffPost Partner Studio. Its charter is to make advertising that looks like regular Huffington Post content. For example, there’s this infographic for “Paranoia,” a new film with Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman, and this L’Oréal editorial about why “your daughter is a dork, and that’s okay.”

While HuffPost has hosted sponsored content for a while, this new in-house agency will do things a bit differently than how it previously handled sponsored content. Before Partner Studio, HuffPost would let companies host their own branded pages with content they selected themselves. For example, Cisco’s HuffPost page is focused on the intersection of technology and people, and was curated from content on the HuffPost by HuffPost’s social marketing team. The new agency, however, will take a more hands-on approach to creating original content.

“The Huffington Post has the knowledge of what’s newsworthy, when should it be placed, how should it be discussed or talked about so it’s more compelling to a wider audience,” said Mary Anne Petrillo, senior marketing manager of corporate social responsibility at Cisco, which has leaned on HuffPost for sponsored content in the past. “They bring that guidance and expertise to us to make sure how, where and when we’re telling a story is lined up all in the right way.”

HuffPost CEO Jimmy Maymann said marketers are clamoring for better ways to connect with audiences. And content – in the form of articles, slideshows, videos and listicles – has become the next great hope.

“We’re getting so many inbound requests for native,” Maymann said. “Even though native advertising is out there, not many have the hose we have, and that’s important.”

A large part of the endeavor is a bet on video. While it hasn’t produced videos yet for brands, Partner Studio hopes to differentiate itself from competitors with video mashups and supercuts, like this clip of the 100 greatest movie compliments of all time.

Partner Studio has a staff of 10, a combination of editorially minded people to create content and account service. Maymann understands that some brands will come armed with content already while others will rely on the Partner Studio to do the creative work. Pricing ranges from $40,000 to $1 million, depending on the amount of work HuffPost Partner Studio is required to do and the amount of AOL-wide distribution.

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