How The New York Times Went Native, Ditched Mobile Banners and Embraced Platform Publishing

How The New York Times Went Native, Ditched Mobile Banners and Embraced Platform Publishing

If you’re a brand that wants to push out a native advertising campaign that consumers find genuine and meaningful — as “native” as it gets, really, on a premium publisher property of inimitable quality — one of the best things you could do is to have the publisher develop the content themselves. If you’re a publisher that wants to rope in some dollars from brands hungry for native, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to start up an in-house creative studio to work on it. That effort could turn into an auxiliary revenue stream in itself, even.

The New York Times has received much praise in recent years for its work in native on behalf of advertisers, courtesy of its Brand T Studio, a creative shop focused on developing sponsored content that adheres to the look, narrative style and general standard of quality of non-sponsored Times content. More recently, the Times has been taking a sledgehammer to the negative expectations of mobile advertising, too, ditching mobile banners and full-screen interstitials in place of “Mobile Moments,” a more native strategy modeled in part after the appearance of the news feeds of social platforms where users love to share articles like the stuff the Times publishes. With platform publishing riding high right now, a lot of publishers are very interested in making their content flow seamlessly with the content on and framework of social platforms — and that includes sponsored content.

New York Times SVP, Advertising and Innovation Sebastian Tomich will be talking about these native strategies at OPS on June 7. Along with American Express Senior Manager, US Media Rachel Herskovitz, Tomich will be speaking in a session called “Content Marketing in a Native Landscape.” We reached out to Tomich with some questions about how the Times’ efforts are playing out. He kindly gave us some answers, a preview of the deeper exploration of native he’ll give us at OPS.

One of the challenges of native content is that creating it is pretty labor-intensive. How have you worked to make the production of native content more efficient? Or conversely, are there ways in which scarcity of native content can increase its value?

A great story takes time and great talent to produce. Neither are areas we’re looking to cut corners on. 

In terms of the production process, we’ve focused our tech resources on developing a set of repeatable templates so that for even our most high end programs we’re not recoding pages from scratch each time. 

We’ve also focused on quality over quantity. It’s far more efficient and valuable to the brand to pair great content with a smart distribution strategy, versus hoping that the sheer mass of content will lead to success. It’s always good to remember that the world does not need any more content, period. 

How does an in-house creative team stand to alter a publisher’s business model? And how are seeing that in action, or coming down the road at some point, for the Times?

The business model resembles more of an agency, versus a traditional publisher. 

The creative work is lower margin and is the focus of the conversations with the client, with the higher margin media following. 

It’s very similar to agencies’ margins and focus on creative work, versus programmatic and broadcast media buying. 

Customization for different platforms sounds like another pain point for native. What are your recommended strategies or best practices for negotiating cross-platform performance?

Each platform is unique. Facebook is the platform that requires the most focus, as it is essentially a second internet and is integral to audience development, as is the case with any editorial. The majority of our campaigns have custom promotion tailored to Facebook, with a select few having content that’s created specifically for it.  

The Times rolled out Mobile Moments a while back. How has that been going since you launched it? Is there anything in particular you see working well, and anything you’d like to revisit with your team in the near future?

Most important is the push to introduce more native ad units. 

Native advertising doesn’t necessarily mean branded content. It could just mean ad units that share design and functionality with the rest of the site. Essentially all Facebook/Youtube/Twitter/Instagram ads are native. 

Mobile Moments represented our first push into native formats. We have much more coming in this space. 

How do you see native content’s viewability performing, compared to display?

Tough question to answer as they’re not really comparable. I’d just say we see readers spending upwards of a minute plus with our Paid Posts, something you’d never get with a display ad.