Author Archives: Stuart Last

BlogTalkRadio is Leading the Way with Branded Content

Check out this article in PR Weekly about how BlogTalkRadio is at the forefront of the $1.5 billion branded content industry. Along with Forbes and Buzzfeed, BlogTalkRadio’s CEO Alan Levy discusses how we are changing the game…

Last year, $1.5 billion was spent on branded content designed to mimic the look of editorial, according to Pew Research Center’s 2013 State of the News Media Report.

Compared to the $8.6 billion spent on banner advertisements in 2012, this may not seem like much. However, spending for sponsored content rocketed 45% in 2011 and then 39% in 2012.

Forbes, for example, recently charged sponsors $50,000 to $75,000 per month for a four-month contract when it ran approximately 1,200 native-ad programs through September as part of its BrandVoice format [above]. The posts garnered more than 1 million social engagements on platforms including Twitter and Facebook.

To address this mushrooming trend, the Federal Trade Commission held a workshop in December titled, Blurred Lines: Advertising or Content? Speakers debated the ethics behind blending ads and editorial content.

“By presenting ads that resemble editorial content, an advertiser risks implying – deceptively – that the information comes from a non-biased source,” said FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez at the conference.

This echoes the sentiments of The Wall Street Journal‘s managing editor Gerard Baker. In September, he decried news outlets’ practice of portraying branded content in an editorial style as a deal with the devil. His main fear is that branded content could risk damaging the reputation of news outlets as purveyors of honest journalism.

If Baker’s assumption is accurate, then a number of print, digital, and broadcast outlets – both new and seasoned, including the Journal itself, The Washington Post, The Huffington PostSlateBusiness Insiderand The Atlantic – are in on this so-called Faustian pact, hosting branded content for household names such as IBM, JetBlue, Pillsbury, Dell, UPS, McDonald’s, and BMW.

Church and state separation
Eric Harris, EVP of business operations at BuzzFeedwas in attendance at the FTC’s meeting. He argues that, when done objectively, branded content can work as a legitimate revenue stream.

“When done well, active and social advertising, with church and state separation and proper labeling, is anything but selling your soul to the devil,” he explains. “From our perspective, as long as people know it is 
advertising, we don’t see how this is a bad thing.”

BuzzFeed has no banners and all of its revenue is from branded content. For each program, the outlet creates several pieces of content for or with the brand or agency, which pays BuzzFeed to “natively” promote that content on its website and across social platforms.

Harris defines branded content as material created along with brands and agencies that speaks to the aspirations and attributes they want to communicate to the market. BuzzFeed has been using branded content, or 
as the company refers to it – social content-driven advertising – for four years.

Forbes has strict guidelines to separate the editorial from the sales side of the business. The outlet has an editorial newsroom made up of full-time editors and staff reporters that extends to 1,200 contributors, all of whom report to Lewis DVorkin, Forbes Media’s chief product officer. The magazine also has a separate brand newsroom, which has its own staffers, who report to sales.

DVorkin sees a growing trend where advertisers are creating their own content for Forbes to host.

“A number of our BrandVoice partners are starting to build their own mini newsrooms and hiring journalists to write to a consumer audience,” says DVorkin. “Advertisers that are doing this are performing quite well with their content on our site.”

Meanwhile, social radio network BlogTalkRadio’s editorial team works across both branded and general content, including news, sports, and entertainment.

More than 1,800 shows are created on the network every day. By working in this way, the team handpicks what it believes is the best content for advertisers to connect with. BlogTalkRadio’s model differs from most native advertising as the network’s content already exists – it is simply curated for advertisers. That means the branded content doesn’t compromise the editorial line, quality, or the listeners’ enjoyment of the content, explains the network’s CEO Alan Levy.

“As most of our content is produced independently by our hosts, we don’t have any issues with maintaining a balanced editorial line,” he says. “Our main challenge is making sense of the thousands of hours of new content on the platform, and making sure we are pulling out the very best of it for our partners to be associated with.”

Transparency is key
When it comes to branded and editorial content, transparency is crucial for reputable news sources and is key to authenticity.

Forbes’ branded content is labeled and identified with a blurb, clearly visible at the top of sponsored posts.

To highlight branded audio content, BlogTalkRadio plays a 10-second audio piece at the beginning of each episode and incorporates a placeholder image with brand logos on its website, along with a written description of the show.

Guidelines for branded content tend to sit with a news outlet’s top-tier management team, which must reach a unanimous agreement on decisions.

According to BuzzFeed’s Harris, branded content in video is the next big thing to look out for.

BuzzFeed is on a mission to educate brands and agencies about the art and science behind social-driven branded content, with a goal of helping the platform’s partners grow their businesses. In May, BuzzFeed launched the Social Storytelling Creator Program with VaynerMedia to provide “social storytelling agencies” with expanded training, tools, and support on its publishing platform.

That same month, BuzzFeed announced plans to invest in and expand video operations and build a social video studio in Los Angeles designed to create news and entertainment video content exclusively for YouTube. 
Expansion plans entail creating new channels, including recreating a video news format that is shareable.

“Our LA team is creating social videos from an editorial perspective, and they have grown our video presence on YouTube to more than 100 million views per month in about a year,” Harris explains. “Video consumption is moving toward short one- to three-minute movies that will be passed around like articles and listicles on social networks.”

Standing your ground
Of course, on the editorial side, not every piece of news about a brand is going to be favorable. This can cause conflict between a news outlet and a brand partner.

Publishers such as BuzzFeed make it clear from the start they do not edit content based on advertisers’ requests or needs. Harris says BuzzFeed, which works with many top brands, has lost a number of deals because of this. In 2013, the site was running more than 600 campaigns and advertisers counting in the double digits were upset with the outlet at one point or another.

“We get plenty of angry emails,” he says. “But we explain to advertisers that we are a news company, not unlike The New York Times – we keep our editorial and business separate. We don’t have control over what the editors write, nor do we want to. Most respect that, but every once in a while they don’t, and we lose a deal.” 

More top editorial titles are jumping on the branded content bandwagon with each passing moment. The New York Times will offer a form of native ads in 2014, and Time Inc. will also ramp up branded content efforts.

“This is a part of the advertising or marketing world that’s not going to go away,” DVorkin says. “We need to evolve it along with our partners. This is a learning curve for people on the editorial and marketing side.”

The Awards Season Network on BlogTalkRadio Gets You Set for the Golden Globes, Oscars, and Critics Choice Awards

This week we launched the Awards Season Network on BlogTalkRadio – a collection of interviews with movie stars, reviews of the biggest movies of the past year, and predictions for who will walk away with awards.



Check it out here.


The Golden Globes, Oscars, Critics Choice Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards are all coming up soon, so we wanted to make sure all the great movie shows we have are easy to find.

Here’s a few of the highlights.

Bono and The Edge from U2 discussing the song they wrote for Mandela: Long Walk To Freedomclick here.

A Golden Globes preview show from Betty Jo Tucker on Movie Addict Headquarters – click here.

An interview with Lupita Nyong’o who is nominated for her role in 12 Years A Slaveclick here.


Columbia University Shares it’s Research and Ideas with the World Through BlogTalkRadio

Nothing makes us happier in the BlogTalkRadio offices when we get to help people share their thoughts, passions, and ideas with the world.  
And it’s been great to see Columbia University doing just that, using our platform to showcase the amazing work that they
The New York based university started a show for their Journalism School almost 5 years ago. They hold discussions on the use of social media in journalism, conduct interviews with reporters from CBS and NBC, and show-off their program to prospective students. Earlier this year they broadcast their show live from the 2013 Pulitzer Prizes, and spoke with nominees and winners – it’s a great listen, check it out here.
Columbia’s Department of Surgery also has a great archive of shows on BlogTalkRadio. They cover everything from the latest research on heart disease, to Breast Cancer treatments, to nutrition advice. These guys really are leaders in their field, so check out some episodes here.
Last month we worked with the Columbia Psychiatry Department on a series of special shows about OCD. They’re leading the way on understanding the condition, and their shows highlight their latest thoughts on coping with the disorder, treatments, and neurosurgery options.They also have an archive of shows that cover topics like eating disorders, marijuana use amongst teens, and treatments for depression. Take a listen.
We’ll be working closely with Columbia University in the future too, and will be sure to let you know about their upcoming projects.

How BlogTalkRadio is Working Hard to Distribute Your Shows, Plus Some Tips For Getting Your Show Featured

BlogTalkRadio is committed to promoting the great content that our family of hosts are producing. This summer we’ve launched a new homepage with a vastly improved way to showcase the best shows on the network, we have new recommendation features throughout the site, and we produce daily blog-posts about our content that have increased our presence on Google. Our newsletter now reaches more people than ever before, and our social media community continues to grow. We have a new dedicated page on iTunes, distribution deals with TuneIn Radio and Swell, plus our latest initiative with Aha Radio to make BlogTalkRadio available in connected cars.
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I believe that in the coming months we can really grow the reach of our audiences, connect with new listeners, and have more people engaged with the shows that you’re making.
The quality of content on BlogTalkRadio is at an all time high – we have more hosts than ever before setting new standards with their shows. This means that competition for promotion is extremely fierce, and may mean that your episodes are getting featured less than they were in the past. It’s a great problem for us to have of course, but I also realize it can be frustrating if your hard work isn’t being recognized as much as you think it should be.
So, here are some key thoughts on how to get your shows featured, what kind of content we’re looking to showcase, and how to highlight your best episodes to our editorial team;
If we don’t know about your show, it’s hard to promote it
Submitting your best shows through the ‘Feature Your Show’ option on your dashboard is still the best way to highlight it to our editorial team. 

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- Don’t submit every show you do though, it’s better to highlight the really good ones with special guests, topics related to current events etc. 
- Tell us what you’re doing on social media too – we can share it that way with our followers.
If we don’t understand the focus of your show instantly, it’s hard for us to make other people understand it
Good episode titles and descriptions are vital.
 – First of all make sure you give each episode a specific title. You’ll never get your show featured if you title your episode “Gardening News Week 4,” but you might if you call it “The Ultimate Sprinkler System.” If your show covers lots of topics, 
pick out the best one for the title. 
 – Change up your episode descriptions making them specific to that week’s episode – using a generic description of what your show does will not get it featured – this happens a lot.
- Write your episode description for someone who may not know your show. You may have a guest who’s an expert in their field, but not a household name – explain who they are and what they do. Pick out a specific talking point and give some examples of why it’s relevant.
Broad appeal is good, relevancy is great, but niche can sometimes be best.
 – So we like content with broad appeal. You’ll see a lot of sports and entertainment guests featured on our homepage. First impressions count, so if someone is coming to BlogTalkRadio for the first time we want them to instantly see something that is 
of interest to them – sports and entertainment are two themes that have proven appeal to a broad audience.


 – We also like relevancy – last week we ran a big homepage promotion about the 
assassination of JFK because it was a hot topic that people all around the world were interested in hearing about. You don’t have to make shows about the big news items, but focusing themon timely subjects is great – for example at the start of this year’s NFL season one of our movie shows did a countdown of the Top 10 Football Movies. Equally good in August, one of our cooking shows did an episode on back-to-school lunch recipes.
 – We do recognize that our audience has a wide variety of passions and interests, and we make sure that we give promotional space to a huge range of subjects – more so than any other media outlet, and this is one thing that makes BlogTalkRadio unique. But there’s still a lot of competition – even the most niche subject will have many different shows about it, so within your niche make sure you’re finding the most interesting guests and creative topics.


BlogTalkRadio University: Make The First 3 Minutes of Your Show Great

The first three minutes of your radio show are the most important – it’s when people decide whether they like what you’re doing and if they’ll keep listening to the rest of your show.


First impressions count, and in a crowded marketplace where people have so many things vying for their attention, you need to do everything you can to make an impression.

So you need to make the most of that 180 seconds, and in the latest episode of BlogTalkRadio University we’re giving you some tips to make it count.

Here’s some simple things to think about…

1. If you’ve got a great piece of Intro Music – keep it to 20 seconds to stop everyone switching off.

2. Remember to introduce the show and yourself – you want new listeners to know who you are and what you do.

3. Get the interview with your great guest started – don’t even wait one minute.

4. Tell people how to interact – phone numbers, email addresses, social media, web addresses.

5. Signpost – pick 3 topics or features and let people know what time you’ll be doing it.

6. Introduce your team last – it helps keeps all the important stuff clear

You can listen to the whole show right here.

 3 minutes

Tribute to Our Much-Loved Host Wayne Hurlbert

On Thursday night at 8pm EST, BlogTalkRadio’s CEO Alan Levy will host a special tribute to Wayne Hurlbert who sadly passed away last week.

Wayne was the longest-serving host on BlogTalkRadio, presenting the Blog Business Success show since 2006.

Alan will be joined by many of Wayne’s friends and fellow hosts, and we would love you to be involved in the show, find out more here. 

Chef Cardona: I Started Out as a Broke, Illegal Immigrant. What’s Your Excuse?

Today he’s the star of a TLC International reality series while serving as executive chef at some of Manhattan’s best-known restaurants—and as personal chef to A-listers ranging from Marc Anthony to Derek Jeter to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.


“Because I’m infatuated with what I do, I never feel like I’m working,” says Chef Cardona (above).

But 30 years ago, Ricardo Cardona was just another broke immigrant fresh off the boat from Central America, roaming the streets in search of work.

“When I arrived here from El Salvador as a teenager, I not only had to learn my way around Manhattan, I had to learn a new career and a new language,” he tells Eduardo Quezada, host of Tu Propio Negocio on BlogTalkRadio en Español.

So when Chef Cardona—who last week opened yet another Big Apple hotspot, Z BAR Restaurant & Sky-Lounge—hears complaints from wannabe entrepreneurs saying they can’t find work, he ratchets up the tough love.

“I tell them the same thing I tell my 26-year-old son: I came to this country illegally with just $20 in my pocket and without knowing a word of English, and I made it. What’s your excuse?”

Chef Cardona adds that young Hispanics looking to become successful in business must possess strong leadership and negotiating skills, along with common sense.

“You can’t open an upscale restaurant in a poor neighborhood,” he says. “And if what you do is make French fries, and then they must be the best French fries in the world.

“The point is, be the best at what you do, do it with passion, and always know who you’re serving.”

As for his own favorite culinary creation, Chef Cardona, whose restaurant-makeover show, Mission Menu, airs throughout Latin America, reveals:


] “Once you are Marc Anthony’s and Jennifer Lopez’s chef, everyone wants to use your services,” Chef Cardona (above with the pop stars and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor) tells us.

“There’s a dish that everyone thinks I learned from my grandmother, but I actually thought it up at an airport on my way to San Diego. It’s called el puerquito—pork shoulder with Mexican chile, chipotle, and Dominican sour oranges and oregano, all wrapped in plantain leaves and cooked at low heat for five hours.

“I’ve cooked it for Sonia Sotomayor, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony.”

Sponsored by Amway, Tu Propio Negocio launched in September and runs through October 31 on BlogTalkRadio en Español.

To hear Chef Cardona’s full interview, tune in here