With the ever-expanding definition of partnerships, different classes of partners have different goals and expectations. Cashback and coupon sites might have similar goals and interests when it comes to affiliate agreements, while influencer relationships and brand-to-brand partnerships are forged with vastly different rules of the road. When it comes to direct partnerships between brands and premium content publishers — who have highly desirable audiences — each party goes in with a specific set of expectations. Those expectations are rooted in a combination of strategic imperatives and in sound audience analytics and data.
At Partnerize, one of the world’s leading partner automation providers, I work on building and fortifying our partnerships with content publishers in the U.S. In recent months, we’ve brought several amazing content partners onto our platform. This means that brands using Partnerize can access these premium publishers for their partner programs in new and exciting ways. Having spent time with many of these content publisher teams, I’ve noticed there are a few common themes that resonate as they consider partnerships.
Desire for Flat Fees/Openness to Performance-Based Revenue
High-quality content publishers are willing to consider partnering with a brand but will often ask for a flat fee as part or all of their compensation. This is to weed out the serious brand partners and also to ensure they are not losing money on brands they want to test with first. Flat fees can cover specific content featured on the site, in an email or newsletter, or other premium placements that boost visibility.
They ensure cash flow before a partnership begins, which can also be valuable to many content-producing organizations. Previously these upfront payments were thought of as set-up fees, but in today’s media environment, they are viewed merely as a means to an engaged audience.
Flat fees can be as low as $5K, running up to $500K+, depending on the publisher, audience size and composition, and the placements involved. These days, we frequently see a flat fee combined with a pay-for-performance commission model. Here, a merchant incents publishers for results, but has skin in the game for the partnership.
Need for Premium Rates
Content partners, like all media companies, want to maximize their revenue. Most view exclusive, premium content as key to realizing that goal. Whether compensated on a flat fee basis, or with the increasingly popular pay-for-performance models, merchants should be cognizant that their compensation approach needs to deliver maximum value for the publisher in order to be accepted and expanded.
A content publisher holds many of the cards in negotiating partnerships. They have the specific, highly engaged audiences brands want to reach. Brands need acquisition of new customers and new ways to engage existing users, and view content partnerships as a valuable use of investment funds. Publishers, therefore, are always going to offer exclusive content at the highest rate possible.
Essential to Retain Editorial Integrity
Another major consideration for publishers is whether or not they are already writing content related to the brand or category organically. Publishers are very concerned with authenticity, and there’s a fine line between branded content and partnership. Remember that content for these organizations is everything — intellectual property that enables them to reach and connect with audiences.
Further, brands should applaud publishers that work hard to retain their independence and integrity. While many publishers are actively soliciting and developing more brand-relevant content opportunities, brands need to understand that, as far as their branded content investment goes, there is a line at which the pub loses credibility if its editorial projects feel bought and paid for by advertisers. Respect their independence and try to find ways where brand interests are aligned with pub and audience interests. Win win win.
Available Resources Govern Deliverables
Many content publishers have incredibly lean talent teams running all of their affiliate and branded content partnerships. While a few organizations have created studios dedicated specifically to generating brand content, many haven’t yet. Some may not have dedicated editorial resources focusing on ecommerce either.
If they don’t have resources and technology available to deliver on content marketing initiatives, they may need to rely more on sub-affiliate links as a revenue stream rather than direct brand relationships. Sub-affiliates have become an industry unto themselves — one that many content publishers have come to lean on for significant revenue. Alternatively, if would-be content providers don’t have the resources to dedicate to content creation, they may simply opt to link directly to larger department stores to drive conversions with minimal resource allocation.
Audience Match is Essential
Relating to preserving their integrity, publishers want to work with brands that are a natural fit for their audience. To reflect their own interests and desire for professional development, writers are more interested in writing about brands they believe in and feel good creating content about. If the audience is a match, and their readers will be receptive, there’s a better chance that a content partnership can blossom. Here it is important to rely upon the expertise of the content publisher, as they have a great sense of what sorts of content marketing will appeal to their viewers. Publishers don’t want to risk losing their audience promoting a brand that doesn’t align with their needs and values.
Brands should be just as vigilant about audience fit when searching for content partners and solutions. If a brand is trying to appeal to a new audience, many content partners will be open to that if you can demonstrate the relevance. Content partnerships — including digital, print, video, and social media — can be great to create awareness and interest in new target audiences if the appeal is there.
There are multiple benefits for both publishers and brands in forging direct relationships. For publishers, they include new sources of revenue, better reporting, stronger communication, and higher total revenue. For brands, content publisher partnerships can enable them to high quality endorsement and potentially exclusive presence It is important that these partnerships start on the right foot so that mutual benefits are established and recognized quickly. That’s when both the brands and publishers can see great revenue growth.