Will The New York Times redesign payoff?
The New York Times' long-awaited Web revamp across tablets and desktops shows the significant role that new advertising opportunities and mobile-geared features will play for publishers in monetizing all types of digital content.
The publisher launched a responsive site last week that is built for desktops and tablets that pulls in mobile-designed articles, videos and social sharing. Additionally, the revamp lines up with the first sponsored content campaigns that Intel and Dell have launched.
?The last time we redesigned the site was 2006, when touch devices weren't even in the market, so optimizing the navigation for touch devices was a primary goal,? said Linda Zebian, spokeswoman for the New York Times, New York.
?We also wanted to create a responsive design for both desktops and tablets, reduce the amount of visual competition on each page, create more resonance between the Web and print editions and allow for new ad configurations,? she said.
Betting on responsive
The refreshed site is meant to showcase video and high-resolution photos for desktop and tablet devices. Given the immersive quality of media on tablets, it is no surprise that videos and images are one of the biggest emphasis areas with the redesign.
Using a new responsive Web design layout, content loads faster, pulls comments into the side of articles and encourages more social media sharing so that consumers can read comments and articles simultaneously.
Additionally, the menu section on the homepage is condensed to show less options, which is another design element that has been pulled from mobile.
The new layout incorporates more white space onto article pages, which is well suited for tablet readers with smaller screens.
The redesign also brings the first sponsored posts to the New York Times? sites.
Dell is the first advertiser to leverage a sponsored post, which is promoted with masthead panels on the publisher?s home page and a call-to-action along the right side of the screen.
Copy in the sponsored post reads, ?Paid post? to signify that the content is not editorial content from the New York Times.
Dell is promoting four different pieces of sponsored articles on the topics of millennials, women in the workforce, the intersection of marketing and IT departments in offices and what the government can learn from startups about creating nimble organizations.
When consumers click on a sponsored ad, they are taken to a page with a sponsored URL that begins with http://paidpost.nytimes.com.
Additionally, a shaded bar across the top of the screen marks the content as sponsored, similar to how Buzzfeed highlights sponsored content.
Intel is also running a sponsored post campaign that links to an article titled, ?Fashion and Tech Industries Co-Invent the Future of Wearables.?
Although there are still plenty of ethical questions around the separation of editorial and sponsored content, the New York Times' move into sponsored content shows the various ways that publishers are looking to monetize content outside of a basic banner ad.
At the same time that major publishers are looking for new ways to integrate sponsored posts into content, the Federal Trade Commission is also cracking down on what a sponsored mobile advertisement needs to look like.
In December, the FTC hosted a day-long workshop that was aimed at helping clear up some of the confusion that native ads cause for readers.
Native ads will continue to be on the FTC?s radar this year and is working on creating standards for the publishing industry.
The new redesign or sponsored ads are not reflected in the mobile version of the New York Times? site. However, the publisher?s mobile site was revamped in May 2013.
New subscription models
The new redesign is leading up to the rollout of a lower-priced digital subscription model that the New York Times will put into place later this year.
According to Ms. Zebian, the lower-priced option is intended to give readers a quick nugget of the most important news. This model is designed for mobile-first media consumption since consumers are more inclined to skim through headlines and articles from their smartphones and tablets.
The newspaper giant was one of the first in the publishing industry to successfully monetize subscriptions through a digital paywall.
Over time though, the amount of paid content that consumers can access has changed slightly.
In June of last year, The New York Times rolled out metering on its mobile applications so that readers could access up to three articles a day across any section (see story).
In March 2012, The New York Times went from offering 20 free monthly articles to ten for non-subscribers (see story).
?I think the New York Times recognizes that more and more of their readers are using multiple screens to get their news,? said Tony Vlismas, senior director of marketing at Polar, Toronto.
Mr. Vlismas is not affiliated with the New York Times. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.
?And while mobile usage is at a record high, often someone might start a story on their desktop, but finish it on their tablet while watching television or on their smartphone while riding the bus home,? he said.
?A consistent user experience across all screens is more imperative now than ever and responsive aids in that. Moreover, native advertising works great in a responsive system whereas other display ads might not make its way to smaller screens.?
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York