After three years as  Dell’s managing editor, Stephanie Losee announced last week that she’s taken on a newly-created role at Politico, launching a brand content division for the political news site.

Losee is a former journalist (Fortune, PC Magazine) who joined Dell in as managing editor in 2012 after spending more than a decade freelancing for brands and PR firms. 

At Dell, she was the editorial driver for Tech Page One, the company’s foray into brand content. There, she was part of Dell being the first native sponsor for the New York Times and later working with USA Today. We spoke to Losee about the lessons she learned on the brand side — and what that means for Politico. 

The Holmes Report: Tell us what your role will be like at Politico.  

Stephanie Losee: They have given me a business partner — Nick Yaeger — who is managing the data team. I’m managing the creative, in-house, freelancers and agencies producing content. I’ve learned how fast this space moves, so I want to stay nimble.

At Dell, we relied a lot on [the content marketing firm] Group SJR. At Politico, I think I’ll have the chance to manage a freelance team that brings back all the people I’ve worked with over the years and loved.  

THR: What lessons did you learn on the brand side that you’ll carry with you now that you’re on the media side? 

SL: Being the first managing editor at Dell was an incredible opportunity to shape this changing space as it evolved. At Tech Page One, we took an 80-20 mix on the content, so 80% editorial, 20% promotional. Content marketing is a search war so this approach was affirmed when Google listed us as a news site and, in several cases, our stories came up ahead of the New York Times. 
Does the reader do something different or think something different as a result of reading the content? Branded content should close that loop. 
But the point wasn’t to beat publications, it was to use brand money to achieve the same ends it used to. In the old model, brands subsidized good journalism and this is now taking on a new form that’s more friendly to digital. 

THR: What will happen to Tech Page One now? 

SL: It’s better than ever. Last month, Tech Page One expanded to become Dell's brand front door, Power More. 

THR: At Dell, you were the first native sponsor for the New York Times and USA Today. What did you take away from working with those publications that you can bring to Politico as it goes down a similar path? 

SL: When we did those, it was early days and the model was not quite baked. Now they are very baked and they have content studios. The process was a real education from the ground up. I got to see — from the inside out — the challenges and what it takes to serve brands and, on the brand side, I understand the challenges of getting an ROI.

THR: How do you define ROI for native advertising or brand content? 

SL: There’s the top of the funnel where content is about awareness and to inform. But there are two ways to prove that something has changed, especially with Politico where you’re dealing with an passionate, influencer-based audience. First, are there different perceptions of the brand? Second were there actions taken after reading the content? Does the reader do something different or think something different as a result of reading the content. Branded content should close that loop. 

Conversation edited for length and clarity.