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New York Times exec: Avoid channel-based thinking in publishing

NEW YORK ? A New York Times executive at Mobile Marketer's Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2014 conference said that publishers should approach mobile as a completely new medium that is different from every other marketing tactic.

During the ?Content, Media and Publishing: Monetization and Advertising Challenges Loom Large" session, executives from USA Today, The New York Times, Yahoo and Mindshare discussed how mobile is impacting the publishing world. The panel was moderated by Lauren Johnson, associate reporter at Mobile Marketer, New York.

?We come to mobile like this is just another platform, we?ve seen radio go to television, we?ve seen print go to Web,? said Michael Zimbalist, senior vice president of ad products and research and development at The New York Times, New York. ?I would sort of challenge everyone to think of mobile as a platform shift of a different order, because we?ve never seen a platform shift that?s invaded people?s lives in such a profound way.

?I think the default case of saying ?We?ve published for the Web, so we know how to publish for mobile' leads to a model that?s very Web-like,? he said.

?Can we avoid the channel-based thinking? What are the habits that are forming, how throughout the day are they changing, and then try to build our own editorial products to match and then find ads to match.?

Native ads
One of the more buzzworthy topics in publishing today is native advertising, and each of the session?s panelists had something to say about the new format.

The New York Times recently added native advertising to their digital publication in a site redesign (see story).

The key issue with native advertising is demarcating the content as sponsored and clearly making consumers? aware of the differences.

?We put a lot of thought into thinking about how to do it in a way that makes it completely clear that it?s a paid program they?re looking at, so you?ll see paid posts,? Mr. Zimbalist said. ?It has the same discovery tools that we make available throughout our editorial operation as well.

?We think it?s a very big development for the digital advertising,? he said. ?It?s a way to allow us to offer something that is unique and can?t be commoditized. We?re very bullish on the opportunity for native ads.?

Craig Etheridge, senior vice president of digital and mobile ad sales at USA Today, McLean, VA, said that USA Today is still experimenting with native advertising.

He did share that native advertising is working better for the publisher on tablet. Since consumers tend to spend more time reading on a tablet, native advertising can more easily fit into the experience.

?We don?t want to just put banner ads in, we want to have ad units that are high-impact,? Mr. Etheridge said. ?Over the past few years we?ve seen our mobile revenue represent 20 to 25 percent of revenue. We try to create true integration across a brand.?

Programmatic buying
Another buzz word in mobile publishing is programmatic buying.

Craig Weinberg, director of mobile at Mindshare, New York, is enthusiastic about the prospects of programmatic for publishers.

?In a conceptual way, programmatic should be a gift to a brand or agency,? he said. ?It should allow a lot more time to think about big ideas and strategy because in a way we have compartmentalized media buying to a machine that?s for the most part going to be able to optimize better than a human being.

?But we?re not there yet. Publishers are still very resistant.?

According to USA Today's Mr. Etheridge, the publisher has embraced programmatic buying and has a separate team devoted to the tactic. Programmatic allows for more efficiency, but USA Today still incorporates more traditional buying and sponsorships.

While the New York Times plays down the importance of programmatic buying as ?only part of the mix," a panelist from Yahoo said that the company is invested in the area.

Yahoo is also focusing on catering to the unique qualities of mobile as it applies to advertising.

?We?ve been thinking about curated and summarized content because we know the mobile user wants quick access,? said Patrick Albano, vice president of social, mobile and innovation sales at Yahoo, Sunnyvale, CA. ?That?s been really successful and we?ve seen that permeate to advertising.?

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York