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Branded Content Playbook: BarkPost Creates Its Own ‘Terrier-tory’

When visiting your favorite news site, have you ever been a little saddened to find crime stories and political coverage crowding out the videos of talking dogs? It’s okay. You can admit it. At least 2 million others feel the same way.

That’s how many people are now visiting BarkPost, the content arm of canine-focused company Bark & Co., every month. The stats highlight a considerable jump in viewership from the site’s 10,000 monthly visitors a year ago.

“I’m still surprised by what is happening,” said Stacie Grissom, BarkPost’s managing editor and holder of the greatest job ever. “I’m flabbergasted by how wide our audience is. There are a lot more crazy dog people out there than we realized.”

Of course, Grissom uses the term “crazy” endearingly, considering she’s talking about the online community that feeds directly into BarkBox, a subscription-based retailer of dog goodies, and BarkCare, a veterinary house-call service.

“From the beginning, there was and has never been any pressure to sell BarkBoxes or any other other products,” Grissom said. “But by engaging with our customers on a deeper level with something they really love, it definitely has helped.”

The quality quotient of canine content

Here’s the Mastiff-sized question, though: With the virtual bottomless pit of cute animal content that is the Internet, how did BarkPost manage to gain such a presence? According to Grissom, it’s all about original, carefully crafted content.

“By creating our own content, we’ve been able to develop a unique voice and approach to celebrating dogs as muses—not as possessions,” Grissom said. “To stand out, you’ve got to create your own terrier-tory.”

Most cuddly-animal content out there is mere clickbait to lure readers to a site with the hope they’ll suddenly become interested in what’s happening in Syria and then transition over to the sidebar content. The cutesy story, where it came from or how original it is, doesn’t really matter.

At BarkPost, it matters. Grissom and her staff of three full-time newshounds and 20 freelancers aren’t farting around when they craft stories like “11 Dogs Who Are Terrified of Farts” or “17 Unexpected Ways Your Dog Can Improve Your Health.” They’re pointedly writing incredibly shareable stories that haven’t been published elsewhere. And all articles have to pass a (forgive us) sniff test for both quality and tone.

“There are a lot of dog content sites that focus on negative things, like, ‘Here’s this dog that was found in a trash can,'” Grissom said. “We wanted to celebrate dogs and have a lot more fun doing it.”

Traffic tails and a new breed of e-commerce

The effort and fun has paid off, even more so than Grissom anticipated. After publishing an article chronicling a couple’s NYC proposal that included help from 16 pugs, the story went on to run in TODAY, BuzzFeed, PEOPLE Pets, CNN, Dogster, and even in a Good Morning America segment. And while the pug proposal may have been BarkPost’s most viral moment, it certainly hasn’t been its only one.

“Sometimes they don’t give us credit, and sometimes they do,” said Grissom. “We’re all just sharing dog stuff, so we don’t get too miffed.”

With 2 million monthly visitors to a site that just launched in September 2012, Grissom doesn’t have much reason to miff. In fact, the rush of traffic has provided BarkPost with an opportunity to experiment ways of generating revenue directly from their content.

“We have done a couple sponsored posts, but they didn’t really jive with us or the site,” she said. Instead, Grissom has dabbled in strategically pairing a story with targeted retail. For example, in advance of the annual men’s health initiative Movember, she ran “31 Dogs in Mustaches,” featuring dogs playing with the canine equivalent of a mustache-adorned pacifier. Assuming every dog owner viewing the story would want to take such a photo with their own pup, the article included a link to purchase the toy. It was a good assumption, since the “Humungastaches” sold right out.

“We have a different take on e-commerce,” said Grissom. “If we think it’s cool and we want to sell it, we will,” said Grissom. “But only if it makes sense.”

As Grissom and her team move BarkPost forward, more careful retail opportunities are likely in the publication’s future. Like all branded content channels, the hope is they’ll continue to grow their audience and direct more traffic to their Bark & Co. partners, but their current stats are proving the company has already been (sorry!) barking up the right tree.

On a day-to-day basis, however, Grissom said their goal is much simpler.

“We’re just going to continue to write this light-hearted dog content until our computers break,” she said.

Erm, well, at least one of their goals is simple. The other is going to take some rather dogged determination.

“My secret goal is to make these dogs more famous than the cats of the internet,” Grissom said. “Move over, Grumpy Cat.”

Your move, cat people.

What’s the deal with The Content Strategist? It’s something we created at Contently because we believe in a world where marketing is helpful and where businesses grow by telling stories that people love. Take advantage of our tools and talent and come build that world with us.

Image by Allert Aalders
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