© 2022 impact.com, Inc | Privacy PolicyTerms of Use 

When The Lego Movie released in 2014, the iconic toy witnessed a record 4.4 billion dollars in sales. Google soon labeled Lego the world’s “most powerful brand.” But the blockbuster movie never once pitched a single toy to viewers. That’s the power of branded content. 

To provide deeper insight into the current state of the industry, Pressboard by impact.com’s 2022 Mid-Year Branded Content Benchmark Report dives into crucial metrics that publishers can use to help publishers better understand and measure branded content success. The report covers data from January to June 2022, analyzing nearly 6,000 pieces of branded content from 343 publications read by 55 Million people.

Are you a brand or advertiser? Click here

Ready to scale your branded content program? 
See how we can help you consolidate your branded campaign data, automate reporting, and more.

In this blog, you'll learn: 

  • The state of branded content in the industry

  • The extent to which engagement has grown 

  • What kind of branded content engages audiences the most

  • The effectiveness of various traffic drivers

The state of branded content in 2022

Branded content builds brand awareness by highlighting a company’s values—not its products or services. Unlike traditional advertising, branded content relies on the art of storytelling, tapping into human emotion in a way that doesn’t leave the audience feeling sold to. 

Less than a decade ago, branded content was still a fledgling offering from a handful of major publishers. In 2014, The New York Times launched T Brand Studio, and Buzzfeed led a movement to eschew banner ads and go all in on storytelling formats instead.

Fast forward to today and 88 percent of publishers derive revenue from branded content. 

However, along with that growth comes scaling challenges, including:

  • Siloed and disparate campaign performance data
  • Manually creating and sending reports to brands for every campaign
  • Missing promised campaign goals and benchmarks

With these challenges, capturing and benchmarking information about branded content rises in importance. That’s where Pressboard by impact.com’s 2022 Mid-Year Branded Content Benchmark Report comes into play. 

By comparing key metrics across segments and industries, publishers can use this data to help gauge where they currently stand, identify future opportunities, and realize the actual value of branded content. 

Content activity

Branded content has gained even more traction with publishers and readers in 2022 — and the numbers prove it. People spend more time with branded content than in previous years. In turn, publishers are taking notice and increasing production


  • Publishers are scaling branded content efforts, almost doubling their output since 2020

  • There’s been a substantial increase in reads in the first half of 2022 compared to all of 2020

  • Article reads saw gains throughout most of the first six months of 2022, with the highest number reached in June

Content performance

Reader engagement makes branded content partnerships with advertisers genuinely impactful. This goal can be challenging in a world where reader attention spans are divided and shrinking. Yet the numbers show branded content continues to immerse publisher audiences.


  • The majority of branded content has a high-quality read rate

  • The average time readers spend with branded content nears one minute on average

  • Conversions on branded content sit just under 3 percent — significantly more than many other advertising channels

Highest performing stories

Among all the branded content that enters the Pressboard system, some have a certain je ne sais quoi that makes them resonate with audiences. Get inspired by these creative pieces that led the way in important metric areas.

Most read branded content article

The Zoe Report’s crafted its article, “3 Joyful Trends We’re Predicting for Summer 2022,” in partnership with Outshine Fruit Bars. 

Branded content with the highest active time

Maclean’s wrote “It takes a village to stand up to cancer” in partnership with the Save Your Skin Foundation.

Branded content with the highest conversion rate

USA Today partnered with Humana to write “The ultimate prep guide for the 2023 National Senior Games.”

Branded content with the highest social traffic

Narcity wrote the article, “I tried the 8 new dishes from Cora’s Sweet N’ Salt Festival and here’s what I thought,” in partnership with Cora Breakfast and Lunch restaurants. 

Note: Highest social traffic is defined as the stories with the highest percentage of all traffic coming from social media.

Branded content with the highest direct traffic

CNBC partnered with the Ithra Museum to create “Is digital well-being achievable? Gen Z weighs in.” 

Note: Highest direct traffic is defined as the stories with the highest percentage of all traffic coming from direct sources.

Traffic sources: what drives readers to branded content

Even the most finely crafted branded content relies on an effective distribution strategy to drive results for advertisers. Publishers can use these metrics to understand how current traffic sources perform on average. These stats can also guide your current strategy to maximize traffic. 


  • Facebook ads had higher click-through rates compared to other types of ads

  • Referral leads the way in terms of traffic sources, driving significantly more page views than other sources

  • Readers consumed branded content mostly on mobile

Take your branded content performance to the next level

To maximize branded content as a revenue stream, you need to identify what strategies work, iterate on successes, and clearly show your value to brands. 

Pressboard by impact.com — part of the impact.com for Publishers suite — helps you do that. As the publishing industry’s leading analytics and reporting system, Pressboard works with top digital publishers worldwide to boost campaign performance, improve relationships with brand partners, and create a seamless experience for readers.

Branded content: See how publishers drove revenue in the first half of 2022