How Jeremy Bencken’s Written is turning the content & advertiser relationship inside out

by Garrett Reim
February 9, 2015
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The Written team with Jeremy Bencken at far right
 
Jeremy Bencken has worked with online content his whole career. He began with ApartmentRatings.com, an apartment reviews website he sold to Internet Brands, then he founded BuzzStream, a link building CRM tool and now runs Written. With these three startups, Bencken has immersed himself in the workings of online content. His wife even does content, running prominent blog, AutoimmuneMom.com.
 
“For whatever reason I’ve always been a publishing nerd,” said Bencken. “I’ve always been around publishing and that’s probably what attracted me to the web to begin with.”
 
When Bencken founded ApartmentRatings.com it was to better connect people to higher value content.
 
“There was a huge need and there was no way for renters to get alternative information beside advertisements,” said Bencken. “It was basically Yelp for apartments, before Yelp existed.”
 
After ApartmentRatings.com sold to Internet Brands, Bencken couldn’t just walk away from content. He spent some time running SEO for Austin tech giant RetailMeNot, he founded BuzzStream, and also did consulting with a handful of Austin companies. 
 
“In the process of that I started meeting with partners at Capital Factory and we started talking about some of the problems in content generation and content scaling,” said Bencken.
 
Bencken knew that on the Internet there was an untapped sea of high value blogging content generating a lot of traffic, but not a lot of revenue. Those content creators didn’t know how to make money from their audiences. Bencken also knew on the other side, there were a lot of marketers struggling to create high quality content that would bring eyeballs in front of their product. 
 
“If we could find a way to work with those bloggers then there is a really good business operation,” said Bencken.
 
Thus, Written was born.
 
“We work with the brand to identify the audience they are trying to reach,” said Bencken.
 
Then, Written matches those brands with blogger content that should drive traffic their way. 
 
“We form these exclusive licenses with bloggers. We give the brand the copy of the post and take the post off the blogger’s site,” said Bencken.
 
Traffic from the original post is redirected to the brand, giving the brand traffic that would be difficult for it to generate on its own.
 
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The business is sort of classic publishing inside out. Typically, publications create content and then cut holes in their content for banner advertisements. Instead, Written finds content, cuts it out and sends it to a place where it’s surrounded by paid branding. 
 
Marketers can also brand the content directly on the bloggers page, or copy the content onto their own pages without redirecting from the bloggers original post. All of these methods allow bloggers to make money where they couldn’t before and gives brands content that would be difficult to create themselves.
 
“We compensate [bloggers] for a rate much better than they might get with AdWords,” said Bencken.
 
That matters immensely because as banner ads become less effective and pay less, these sorts of branded content relationships are likely to become more popular. 
 
BuzzFeed, for example, one of the highest trafficked website’s in the world, doesn’t even run banner advertisements. Instead the site runs native advertisements, which are essentially articles mimicking editorial content. Though not the same as licensed content, BuzzFeed’s success with native advertisements shows Written is onto something.
 
If Written can find ways to bring brands and independent bloggers together more often it may be able to tap into a new type of profitable business relationship.
 
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