Despite a slumping advertising market, Fairfax Media’s content marketing business, Made by Fairfax, has become one of the companys fastest-growing digital advertising offerings.

Like other media companies around the world, Fairfax Media Australia saw decreases from 2015 to 2016 — revenue down 0.6%, profit down 7.6%, from A$143.4 million to A$132.5 million, according to Fairfax’s annual report.

The studio launched in early 2015 with a staff of three. Now the team comprises about 20 people in sales, technology, and content production, plus more than 3,000 freelancers with expertise on a variety of topics, such as travel, technology, and lifestyles.

One key to successful native ad campaigns is producing high-quality storytelling content. Fairfax has gained an edge by setting up its native advertising team similar to an ad agency, with a full range of creative services.
One key to successful native ad campaigns is producing high-quality storytelling content. Fairfax has gained an edge by setting up its native advertising team similar to an ad agency, with a full range of creative services.

In mid-2016, the department had about 70 active accounts, with six or seven expansive, ongoing native campaigns for large customers, according to Simon Smith, former managing director/content marketing at Fairfax.

Smith lists several reasons for the success, not the least of which is that the department operates like an advertising agency, complete with advertising sales people; creatives such as digital designers, videographers, and writers; and strategic thinkers who help imagine and manage the campaigns with the client.

The agency model has afforded Fairfax with some advantages: great care is taken in the storytelling process to produce high-quality content, and metrics show advertisers how well the campaign is performing.

“We have to get better at what are the metrics, and how much we value the engagement, the scroll rate — not just how much the ad was viewed on the screen,” Smith says. “Metrics are the growth area of the market. That’s why we are seeing the reshaping of ad departments, with mathematicians and statisticians.”

The campaigns are not about selling an energy drink or a new kind of shoes, he says. Content marketing campaigns are about engaging the user with relevant and useful content. The text, immersive graphics, photos, and video are branded as sponsored content with the advertisers’ logo. The brand gets positive “rub-off” with engaging, valuable content. The content is meticulously labeled as advertising content.

In addition to the multi-media campaigns published across Fairfax’s many news and lifestyle publications, the native campaigns also are promoted through social channels such as Facebook and Twitter, and on the Web, mobile, and apps.

Made by Fairfax provides a turnkey approach to content marketing that includes multi-media campaigns across platforms and a variety of social channels to increase engagement.
Made by Fairfax provides a turnkey approach to content marketing that includes multi-media campaigns across platforms and a variety of social channels to increase engagement.

Some campaigns even include a sales mechanism based on an algorithm about users and their engagement with the content, suggesting a possible intent to purchase.

Staff includes mostly client and brand strategists, plus social, creative, designers, sales, and account managers, Smith says: “We have a freelance network of 3,500 at any time with specialties in content topics.”

Content marketing is the ideal format for news media companies because the industry has hundreds of years of experience and reputation as excellent storytellers, Smith says.

“That’s what we do, that’s why we get out of bed: To inform and entertain the reader. That’s what has built publishing. Storytelling. We have to think brands think like that. We produce genuine quality content. We are sharing that knowledge and expertise with our clients.”

One such storytelling campaign recently won second place in INMA’s 2016 Global Media Awards. The South Australia tourism authority needed to differentiate itself from the many desirable tourism destinations in the crowded Australia tourism market.

“We needed to do more than just create a great campaign. With so many travel opportunities, South Australia couldn’t afford to cede the stage to competitors for months at a time. South Australia needed to move from being in market for a few months a year to ‘Always On,’” according to the Fairfax award entry.

The response to the challenge was to create a content marketing approach across Fairfax’s digital platforms. During the campaign, more than 200 stories and other content elements were published, including listicles, infographics, and itineraries.

Keeping consumers reading was important. Beyond great writing, the Web allows for engagement in multiple ways.

In this case, the answers to engaging the users were video, photo galleries, and interactive quizzes. Campaign analytics showed audiences spent a total of 512 days of reading time with the content, with an average of 1 minute 27 seconds per page, and the touch-device content delivered three times the number of page views compared to replica Web pages on mobile devices.

INMA members: Click here to download released a strategic report, “Native Advertising Trends 2016: The News Media Industry.”