The Year in Real Journalism
2018 Finalist

The Year in Real Journalism

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta, United States

Category Best Execution of Native Advertising

Overview of this campaign

At the end of each fiscal year, publicly traded companies produce an annual report for shareholders, telling them why they’ve been a good investment. Newspapers have shareholders, too — whether part of a publicly traded or privately held company. Our “shareholders” are the subscribers who invest in real journalism through their subscriptions.

That background provides the premise for the branded content campaign at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). We saw the end of the year as a timely opportunity to look back at 2017, thank our subscribers, and reinforce what they value most from us: knowing what’s really going on.

The AJC took a creative and different approach to the idea of an annual report, developing a year-end “community impact” native advertising campaign. We began the month-long campaign by using our most valuable advertising position: wrapping the front page of the Sunday AJC with a 4-page advertorial. “Our Report to Readers” included a letter from the editor and showcased examples of our most significant stories and moments in Atlanta.

Our newsroom editors also wrote a series of six Sunday op-ed columns articulating the essential role our journalism plays in Atlanta and the important relationship they have with readers. 

In digital, we launched a significant branded content campaign for maximum visibility. All elements were optimized to increase total time spent with content on ad networks and social and are housed at

Results for this campaign

The campaign surpassed projections by 119% — delivering 59.9 million impressions, 205,479 article page views, and 5,600+ social interactions.

“The Making of Real Journalism” showcase video and four shorter “snackable” :15, :30, :30 and :60 versions were viewed more than 1.4 million times – well above projections.  

The listicles: 11 inspirational people worth knowing  and 11 moments, milestones, and people that got Atlanta’s attention in 2017 had the highest social click-through rate (CTR) well above our sales department’s standard native CTR of just over 3%.

The news quiz generated 12,608 quiz completions.

Social comments come from across the political spectrum, but also saw a significant showing of support from commenters on the importance of journalism in society. The overall feedback rating from Facebook is “high,” which is an exceptionally important result since it can be challenging when social comments are focused on the subjects of news and journalism.

We also received positive feedback to our advertorial. For example:

“Thank you for “Our Report to You.” Your summation of six areas covered by real journalism by AJC was on point. I’m so grateful for the 150 journalists who are dedicated to reporting what’s really going on and to refute the rhetoric of the cry of “fake news.”

A third – and important – result is the positive impact the campaign has had on employee morale. As a sales representative wrote in a note to colleagues:

“We have so much to be proud of and literally nothing to apologize for. Every day we come to work is an opportunity to make a difference in Atlanta.”

Finally, because of the superb results, the AJC’s brand marketing campaign provides a dynamic case study for the sales department to showcase our branded content capabilities to others.


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