The Guardian

The Guardian Labs

The Guardian Labs, the branded content wing of British national daily The Guardian, dedicates itself to delivering exceptional branded content across devices. With a team of over 130 content specialists, The Guardian Labs reaches 131 million unique browsers every month worldwide.

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Expensive, Inefficient and Unscalable

The Guardian Labs was burdened with an inadequate story framework, system and content strategy. The existing framework failed to provide advertisers with the tools to tell compelling stories that matched The Guardian’s rigorous, tailor-made editorial standard. Like many publishers, The Guardian found the integration of bespoke native content expensive, inefficient and unscalable.

The Questions

How can The Guardian Labs deliver engaging branded content that readers will value as much as editorial content from The Guardian?

How can we build a system that allows repeated and expanded creation with each new advertiser?

Treat Branded Content like Editorial Content

Readers will accept—and even enjoy—sponsored content only if it's thoughtful and compelling. We needed to give The Guardian’s advertisers the means to tell stories that readers care about.

With that in mind, advertiser integrations needed to be treated with the same level of care, experience design, interaction design, design presentation and engagement as editorially-created feature stories.

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Iterate to Innovate

Using the production of the first article to define a set of rules and modules, we incrementally grew the number of components. With each consecutive article came a new set of learnings, which we then fed back into refining the library of useful modules.

Building a flexible, individually-shareable component framework that accommodated infographics, interactive animations, videos, pull quotes and audio quotes, we updated the formats used within long-form feature stories around The Guardian Labs' observed editorial behaviors.

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The Story Goes On

Complex stories transcend single articles. We crafted narrative arcs to engage readers, providing them with the opportunity to enhance their experience with further exploration. At the end of each story, a package provides an overview of upcoming articles so readers can keep exploring—a technique we’ve implemented to great success for publishers like Mashable and Bloomberg.

With our framework and CMS, Code and Theory has empowered The Guardian Labs to create complex interactive series for future branded partnerships with ease, elegance, and clarity.

  • The first five interactive articles created with our new platform and CMS circulated widely, with more than 105,000 shares.
  • Cisco, the first advertiser to use our new framework, was the top performing native advertiser in The Guardian’s history.