Will native advertising sink The New York Times?

by PR Coach on January 9, 2014

native ads launch at New York Times

Will native ads capsize mainstream media Titanic?

The redesign of The New York Times website signaled the launch of native advertising for the first time at the newspaper.

Will native advertising be the iceberg that capsizes the mainstream media Titanic’s journalistic credibility?

It’s not the first rollout of native ads or brand journalism but it is the most significant in the “Old” mainstream media.

We’re already familiar with brand journalism in Forbes, Atlantic and several other large magazines and newspapers. It’s been a bumpy financial and ethical ride for most media who jump into it.

Five things to know about The New York Times‘ new native ads

Redesigned NYT news website

Redesigned NYT news website

Michael Sebastian at Ad Age shares five things you should know about these new native ads at The New York Times. He looks in detail at what Dell gets for its big budget and its goals for this content marketing strategy:

“For the six-figure price tag, Dell gets a distinctly blue box on the right side of the Times’ homepage that links to its native ad units, or “paid posts,” as they’re called on the site. Clicking the box opens a new browser window — the URL is paidpost.nytimes.com, not nytimes.com — where the posts reside on a page that is also clearly labeled, “Paid For and Posted by Dell.” At the bottom of the page is another disclaimer: “This page was produced by the Advertising Department of The New York Times in collaboration with Dell. The news and editorial staffs of The New York Times had no role in its preparation.”

Dell is already getting a big PR payback from the launch publicity. Stephanie Losee blogs about the company’s native ad strategy:

“Launched today, Dell’s Paid Posts page is the beginning of a three-month engagement that allows us to publish stories that enable our audiences to Do More, just as our technologies do. On the page readers will find articles written by veteran journalists on topics that we expect to appeal to a broad swath of our customers and potential customers, particularly those who make or influence IT-related decisions at their companies. There will be a mix of articles written by the Paid Posts staff and by Dell’s handpicked writers. There will also be on-topic articles curated from both Tech Page One and the New York Times archives. The result is a mix of content that we hope will deepen the conversation we have with our audiences about the changing role of technology in our lives.”

Of course the owners of the NYT are hoping this new revenue stream will help turn around the financial fortunes of the old “grey lady.”

10 big questions for native advertising 

Dell launches first New York Times native ads

Dell launches first New York Times native ads

Native advertising brings big challenges and raises some intriguing questions to ponder for traditional media and its readers:

  1. Will there be a push back from readers opposed to brand journalism?
  2. The NYT is very careful about transparency but will future advertisers demand more control and will other media be as transparent as competition heats up?
  3. The separate “editorial unit” at this time has no input from mainstream journalists in the newsroom across the hall. Who has editorial control of these “freelancers” and how much input does the client have?
  4. Will the separation of “real” journalists from “brand” journalists remain with continued pressure on costs and staffing numbers?
  5. What happens when or if the brand journalism unit is so successful that it becomes the tail wagging the traditional news dog?
  6. Conversely, could we see clients in the near future demanding that “real” news become “their” branded content? Imagine. This record blizzard and tragic traffic accidents brought to you by Toro snowblowers? The horrible impact of the next hurricane Sandy presented by Hartford Insurance?
  7. Will the hoped-for financial windfall go to support more investigative reporting and traditional excellence in journalism? Or will it be used to grow the needs of the native advertising business instead?
  8. With the addition of more mobile, visuals and video make native advertising so attractive that we don’t care as much about the real newspaper?
  9. Will target marketing by advertisers, for example aiming at millennials, create a new product that doesn’t appeal to traditional, older readers?
  10. Finally, will racism activists protest the use of the word “native” forcing advertisers to have to find another name for their ad pitch?

Just kidding on that last point. But you can never tell these days as the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Blackhawks know very well.

Storms or smooth sailing for brand journalism?

As an experienced PR and content marketing pro, I’m watching these developments with great interest for their potential for brand storytelling, deeper engagement with audiences and intriguing new opportunities for connecting.

Icebergs ahead for native ads?

Icebergs ahead for native ads?

Most businesses however will not be able to afford the luxury of native  advertising.

As an avid newspaper reader, subscriber and passionate supporter of the values of journalism, I’m also watching these developments with a combination of bated breath and fingers crossed.

After all, we’ve seen what happens when content marketing, brand journalism or native advertising took hold on Facebook and across the Internet broadly. More fast food content, less reading nutrition.

I’m hopeful advertisers will resist the temptation to shout marketing crap at readers. So far, both Dell and the NY Times are doing it transparently with good content.

But 90% of those future “icebergs” are not yet visible in that ocean of mainstream media disruption.

What do you think? Will native advertising and content marketing eventually rule newsrooms? Or has that always been the case? Comments and shares are welcome below.

NOTE: My post is updated with Dell’s own explanation of its goals and the NYT native ad program details in the quote and link above.

Author: Jeff Domansky

Visuals: Shutterstock, New York Times,  GraphicStock