N.Y. Times Makes Innovation a High Priority for Web Site Ads
By Heather Somers
NYTimes.com has an extensive database of reader-supplied information allowing
you to access your ideal audience.
Who says Internet ads have to be boring? Or annoying?
Jason Krebs, vice president of sales for The New York Times’ Web site, says that his site goes all out to make ads interesting
for readers, useful for advertisers, and financially rewarding for the company.
The Times has developed a number of methods for giving advertisers what they want—large and effective reach, without
alienating readers. Requiring registration, Krebs said, enables The Times to target site visitors more effectively and use that
information, not only to sell ad space, but to tailor the ads that appear on readers’ screens.
For instance, readers who visit the Travel section multiple times begin to see travel-related ads during future visits to the
site by using targeted information the site knows about users from cookies left on their computers. The idea is that readers will
be more receptive to ads that relate to their interests, he said. “Don’t just be there among the clutter. Target by
interest and hit them on all pages.”
The most targeted advertising vehicles are the Times’ “surround sessions” and “site sessions.”
Surround sessions are targeted at demographics and the Times uses the registration system to “surround” individual
users, catching them on the front page of the site and delivering special ad campaigns that follow them through the site. Surround
session ads are usually placed on multiple pages and tell a story. For example, they begin with an introduction to a product, and
on successive pages create a need and show how the product can fill it, all targeted at a specific demographic audience, such
as 40-somethings in the Southwestern United States.
“We let the ads speak to people on different levels,” he said.
Site sessions are used predominantly for product launches. These ads target day parts and fill up every ad on the site.
“We firmly believe that user experience trumps all else,” Krebs said.
Ads that spontaneously make noise, clutter the screen or confuse the difference between editorial and advertising are strictly
verboten, he said, showing off a series of ads the times refused to run because they found them too intrusive or confusing.
The Times (www.nytimes.com) uses “behavioral targeting” and places readers
into contextual categories so that the ads are more effective and The Times continues to work to help advertisers to come up with
ever new innovative solutions.
“It’s not a one-off, cookie-cutter process,” he said.
The site strives to come up with ways to differentiate itself and its ads, such as “sponsored archives,” where
a business will pay for a particular story archive—generally relating to their company. Krebs said that editors are always
involved in these decisions to ensure that the line between editorial and business does not get blurred.
In true New York fashion, the site has a hierarchy for its advertisers. It’s “velvet rope policy,” conjuring
up images of trendy Manhattan nightclubs, reserves its rich media ads—like interstitials and video—for its big spenders.
While the site does not create ads for its business partners, it does work with them to not only create new and exciting advertising
concepts, but to make sure they conform to the paper’s rigorous standards. The user’s experience is always paramount,
Krebs said, and the news must always come first.
The concept behind the Times’ Web ads could be seen as mimicking its journalism—it not only wants to be the paper
of record, but the standard-bearer for innovative and interesting ads as well.
“You’re not going to get money unless you focus on it. You’re not going to get good content unless you work
at it,” Krebs said. “Want to make real money off it? Then you’ve got to put real effort into it."