This week, The New York Times takes the wraps off its first Web redesign in five years. Along with the new look, the paper is rethinking its ad strategy, embracing the current trend toward weaving ads more closely with editorial content.
For all the focus on native advertising, the bigger long-term trend is rethinking Web advertising to take it from its historic placement on the periphery of pages. At the Times, this means thinking about “organic” placements within content. For example, one new ad unit the Times is rolling out will appear within the strip of thumbnails and headlines of recent stories that appears at the top of article pages. Another display ad, which the Times is calling a “nested” ad, appears in the middle of longer articles, expanding as the reader scrolls down and subsequently contracting. New multimedia “Snowfall”-style articles will come with advertising embedded beyond standard ad placements on the periphery.
“We are going for organic to the experience of the site versus disruptive,” said Meredith Levien, evp of advertising at the Times.
The “organic” approach resembles the way ads are presented on social platforms. Facebook weaves ads within its news feed, much as Twitter does with promoted tweets that appear in its stream. Older content sites have mostly relied on advertising that’s off to the side. At a time when every marketer fancies itself a publisher, advertising units are becoming more entwined with non-advertising content, like it or not. The current vogue for native advertising is a reflection of the need for publishers to rethink how they present ads, like it or not.
Even the Times’ much-discussed foray into content-based advertising — it is calling these placements “paid posts” — will be promoted within editorial content rather than occupy a spot on the homepage within editorial content. (The Times takes pains to stress that paid posts, and all advertising, will be clearly labeled as such.)
“You’ll find our discovery units are native to the consumer experience,” said Michael Zimbalist, svp of ad products and R&D at the Times.
The Times is aiming its ad changes at big brand advertisers. It will continue to run custom homepage ad executions. And standardized display ads are still part of the mix, much of them sold through the NYT’s recent embrace of programmatic ad selling. With its new metered system for access to the site, the NYT’s ad business has remained mostly flat. In its most recent quarter, the NYT’s digital ad business declined 3 percent from the same period a year earlier. The Times has pinned this on “an increasingly complex and fragmented digital advertising marketplace.”
“Premium [ad] growth is going to come from native, organic and custom,” Levien said
As for paid posts, which Levien said would be a “meaningful effort,” the Times is in the process of building out a “content studio,” much like those operated by other digital publishers. (Digiday also has a content studio.) The unit will work with advertisers on their paid post programs, which the NYT is modeling after that operated by Forbes, where Levien was chief revenue officer before joining the Times. The idea is for advertisers to have long-term programs rather than one-off campaigns.
Photo via Shutterstock
Digiday+ Research: Nearly two-thirds of publishers think they will lose when the third-party cookie dies
Publishers have been busy prepping for the end of the third-party cookie, but that doesn't mean they think they'll come out on top in the post-cookie era. In fact, publishers count themselves among those who stand to lose from the end of the cookie.
Media Briefing: Publisher execs fear lack of visibility for Q3, but feel steady year over year
Publisher execs share how Q2 shook out for their businesses as they brace for an equally murky second half.
Spotify cancels six true crime podcasts amid layoffs, Gimlet-Parcast merger
Spotify is canceling six shows and laying off 200 people as it merges its Gimlet and Parcast units to push its podcast business towards profitability.
SponsoredWhat the measurement and currency discussion really means to TV advertisers
Ali Mack, head of TV and agency, Experian Major streaming video providers have recently made headlines by adopting new currencies for ad measurement, threatening Nielsen’s long-standing TV ratings monopoly. NBCUniversal, for example, has certified iSpot and VideoAmp as currencies for advanced audiences and formed the Joint Industry Committee with Paramount, TelevisaUnivision and Warner Bros. Discovery. […]
As AI spreads across the marketing landscape, data’s role will be key to success or danger
There’s a growing awareness of the risks inherent in AI's ultra-powerful potential, but whether enough steps are being taken to mitigate them remains a huge question mark.
‘Not the future’: European publishers remain steadfast in blocking alternative IDs to third-party cookies
Some European publishers believe alternatives to the third-party cookies, probabilistic or deterministic, will do more harm than good to their ads businesses.