The Huffington Post is expanding the way it works with brands in an effort to cash in on the popular brand-as-publisher trend, Ad Age has learned.
The company, part of AOL, has been talking to ad agencies and marketers about helping them build websites for brands and subsequently aiding in content creation, curation and distribution to consumers.
Razorfish has spoken with The Huffington Post about a project for one of its clients, for example, although it hasn't closed a deal, according to Jeff Lanctot, global chief media officer at the agency. "It would allow a brand to be a publisher," Mr. Lanctot said, "and the HuffPo engine would power it so you would get all the social savvy that comes with the Huffington Post."
Janet Balis, senior VP for sales strategy, marketing and partnerships for AOL Advertising, confirmed the talks with agencies and brands. But she characterized the offering as another step in the evolution of the type of work that The Huffington Post does with brands rather than a drastic shift in strategy. "The theme in the marketplace is brands are increasingly recognizing that they are in the business of producing content," she said.
The Huffington Post is working with a "major consumer-goods advertiser" to create a lifestyle-oriented content website for that brand, Ms. Balis said. Employees from the company's social-marketing team will both create new content for the site and curate relevant existing content from The Huffington Post.
The team will also provide participating brands with the same kind of analytics on content performance and social sharing that the editorial operations at The Huffington Post receive, Ms. Balis said. The Huffington Post is selling brands on the fact that the content created will rank highly in search engines thanks to The Huffington Post's proficiency in search engine optimization.
The Huffington Post is not alone among publishers rushing to help brands act more like publishers. At Gawker Media, for example, Nick Denton recently announced that an editor was moving over to the business side to help brands develop sponsored content for Gawker Media sites. And The Huffington Post already works with brands such as IBM to create and distribute content that lives within special sections of The Huffington Post. But powering content for brands elsewhere around the web is rare for media companies.
If Razorfish signs on, the agency or its client will probably look to license a white-labeled version of the Huffington Post publishing platform and run the resulting site themselves, Mr. Lanctot said. Ms. Balis said The Huffington Post would be open to that sort of licensing, although she didn't speak directly on the prospective Razorfish deal.
The Huffington Post would like to see participating brands use AOL's Devil ads or other proprietary units for any content distribution around the web, but Ms. Balis said that would not be a requirement.