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Who's Behind the Sponsored Content at BuzzFeed, Gawker, Hearst and WashPo?

A Look at Four Big Publishers, And How Their Native-Advertising Teams Shape Up

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What good is native advertising if it doesn't talk like a native?

To help advertisers, media companies are building teams, often called studios, that create sponsored content for advertisers. Here's a look at four publishers, and how their sponsored-content teams shape up.

BuzzFeed employs a 40-person native-advertising team.
BuzzFeed employs a 40-person native-advertising team. Credit: Macey Foronda

BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed employs a creative-services department of 40 to produce content for advertisers and consult on how to write stories in the BuzzFeed vein. Sponsored content is the site's only source of revenue.

The team, led by Melissa Rosenthal, consists of designers, writers and animators, according to Jon Steinberg, BuzzFeed's president-chief operating officer. "They pretty much do all of the legwork on programs we create," he said. The team doesn't sell directly to clients, but they advise on requests for proposals. They're paid a salary and don't earn commissions on ad sales or bonuses based on traffic or page views.

Gawker Media

Studio@Gawker, a team of 16 full-time employees, develops content for advertisers whose overall spending on the site is $50,000 or more, according to James Del, the group's exec director.

Within the group of 16 are four writers who create sponsored posts; Gawker also uses freelancers.

The remaining employees handle overall strategy, design and production. The team isn't charged with selling ads, but they do consult with salespeople.

Most employees in the group are paid a salary with a bonus structure tied to the financial performance of the advertising team, according to Mr. Del.

The Washington Post

Within The Washington Post's marketing and ad-operations department is WP BrandConnect Studio, which helps advertisers create sponsored content for the Post's website. "We are building out a team of experts with modern journalism sensibilities," said Kevin Gentzel, chief revenue officer at the Post. The team sits under him and includes designers, producers, videographers, writers and technologists.

The team does not handle sales, Mr. Gentzel said. And they are paid a salary.

Hearst

Hearst has carved out a team of five people to produce sponsored content to run across its websites.

The nascent effort introduced this year is led by Hearst Digital President Troy Young. It produces content for digital-only buys and for the online components of broader ad packages sold through Hearst Integrated Marketing.

The team hails mostly from editorial backgrounds, Mr. Young said. What they share is the ability to think conceptually.

They are paid a salary, he added, and do not receive a commission or bonus tied to page views.

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