This is the third in a four-part series, “Fixing The Publisher Model,” looking at how publishers are experimenting with new models that can bring in additional revenue.

Fortune is the latest top-name publisher to get into the business of creating content for brands.

Fortune will create content for brands to run on their own sites. It has brought in a freelancer who writes regularly for Fortune to create the content, but it goes through the Fortune editors before being delivered to advertisers. The content will not run on Fortune’s site or in its magazine. Capital One is the first client for Fortune-created and branded content about small business strategies and best practices. The content will run on Capital One’s website, carrying the Fortune name. The total number of posts and the date when content will go live for Capital One were not disclosed.

The content will have nothing to do with the brand in any way, according to Jed Hartman, group publisher of news and business at Time Inc. This program is for when the advertiser already has its audience coming to its site to provide “thought leadership and engage them,” Hartman said.

Fortune is trying to thread the needle with how it deploys editorial resources for the project. For instance, it will use a freelancer who has previously written for the magazine. (Fortune would not name the journalist.) Fortune’s editors will vet the piece, same as they would for a piece of editorial content. The client, however, will not get to make revisions.

The use of Fortune editorial resources will make many in the journalism establishment queasy. Much has been made of the shift to sponsored content — and whether it erodes the traditional values of news organizations by blurring the line between editorial and advertising.

Fortune sees alternate distribution as a missing piece to the “brands as publisher” trend circling the industry. Through conversations with advertisers, Hartman thinks Fortune can hit on the sweet spot of creating content for brands surrounding “mutual topics” that are relevant to Fortune’s editorial team and the brand.

What makes this different than other publishers’ hopping aboard the custom content train is that 1) once the topic and form factor — is it a video? a blog? four pages? two pages? frequency — are agreed upon, brands don’t see the content until it’s finished; and 2) the content doesn’t live on Fortune; instead, content is distributed to the brand to put out where it sees fit.

“Making compelling content in and of itself is hard but not necessarily expensive,” said John McCarus, svp of brand content at Digitas. “The key is where it’s living, to whom will it be distributed and how is the platform designed to drive views and promote sharing. There is probably more cost in this part of the offering. So far, we fear some of the more traditional publishers are glossing over the audience distribution piece.”

Brands are on the hunt for content. Publishers, always on the hunt for new revenue, are an obvious source. For an advertiser like Capital One, this allows them to have high-quality content on its own site and at the same time make them seem more credible. Content will have the Fortune tag on it.

“It’s not advertising; it’s not native advertising,” Hartman said. “I understand the confusion there. But all it is is a new distribution vehicle for Fortune content.”

Image via Shutterstock

  • LinkedIn Icon