Spending on branded content, or custom publishing, is at its second-highest level ever, at an average of $1.3 million per marketer, and nearly 100 percent over spending levels from 2008, according to a study from the Custom Content Council in conjunction with the newsletter ContentWise.

The study also indicates that many marketers are continuing to shift their money to branded content and at the same time, increase their spending. "This is good news for us all. Although we are coming out of the recession, our industry has held its own," said Keith Sedlak, chairman of the Custom Content Council and Chief Marketing Officer with Meredith Integrated Marketing.

Some other highlights from the report, whose findings were released this week:

• 66 percent of marketers think branded content is superior to direct mail and 63 percent think it is superior to public relations.

• The primary reason to deploy branded content initiatives is to educate customers, according to 54 percent of the companies surveyed, followed by customer retention at 23 percent.

• The leading secondary reasons were customer retention (35 percent) and educating customers (27 percent), though brand loyalty factored in at 26 percent.

• 29 percent of the average overall marketing, advertising and communications budget funds were dedicated to branded content. This is the second greatest ever (first was 32 percent in 2009).

• Print represented 43 percent of the total spending, while electronic and other accounted for 35 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

• The average spending for print forms of branded content is $256,655 on personnel, $214,874 on production, and $125,343 on distribution.

• The average spending for electronic forms is $267,632 on personnel, $81,246 on production, $62,129 on distribution, and $66,908 on programming.

• The average spending for other forms is $169,255 on personnel, $81,709 on production and $40,855 on distribution.

• The use of services of external agencies (such as custom publishers, PR/marketing firms, design firms, video production companies or interactive agencies) to handle some aspect of branded content initiatives remains consistent at around 50 percent.

• Outsourcing was more prevalent among print forms (45 percent) of branded content, than it was among electronic (19 percent) or other (23 percent) forms. Of all the branded content initiatives, some portion of these initiatives was outsourced 31 percent of the time.

• The average spent among those companies that did outsource (thus excluding those who did not outsource) was $583,500, versus a previous high of $885,646 in 2009.

• A total of 68 percent of companies indicate that their organization are shifting from traditional forms of advertising and marketing to new forms (i.e. branded content, content marketing, custom publishing, or custom media.

• The majority of companies (61 percent) have experience a moderate shift in their spending while 7 percent report an aggressive shift.

The study was conducted via online and mailed surveys targeting a random sample of marketers across all industries. Among the responding companies were: Allstate Insurance, ASPCA, Hoosier Energy, Honda Financial Services, Lockheed Martin, MS Department of Transportation, Proskauer Rose LLP, SiriusXM Radio, State Farm Insurance, World Vision, YMCA and Zale Corporation. More than five thousand invitations were distributed and approximately 200 surveys were completed and returned. The results have an accuracy level of plus or minus 6 percent.

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