NYT Gears Up For 'Critical Year' In Its Advertising Story

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Mark Thompson, CEO NYTCo2014 will be a "critical year in the story of advertising" at The New York Times Co., CEO Mark Thompson said during the company's Q4 2013 earnings call today. It's a story that will play out in ad tech, native ads, mobile formats and video.

"In 2014, we will apply greater focus to mobile monetization, seek to expand our high-CPM video inventory and develop more sophisticated audience targeting capabilities," Thompson said, according to the SeekingAlpha transcript.

During the fourth quarter, total advertising revenue declined 1%. Print ad revenues fell about 2%, while digital advertising was flat. Still, management portrayed the ad business in the final quarter as stronger than at the beginning of the year.

There was a sour note for the programmatic industry, however. Despite Thompson's talk of a "fresh focus on ad tech," CFO James Follo delivered what has become a familiar – and by now perhaps ill-advised -- refrain about price pressure from ad exchanges.

Follo said, "Digital advertising continued to experience challenges in the quarter from programmatic buying issues, which led to pressure on ad rates, as well as some additional pricing pressures caused by the glut of traditional ad inventory."

During the quarter, the Times made its first foray into native ads. Speaking at AdExchanger's Industry Preview conference in January, VP of Research and Development Operations Michael Zimbalist said, “We think of native as discovery. It steers audiences toward branded content, which has access to the same kind of tools that go in to the creation and presentation of our stories across our site."

The company is being very careful on labeling – some might say too careful. Its native ads use a different font, color and typestyle. Media sellers like Twitter, Buzzfeed and Facebook, unencumbered by the church-state concerns of news media, have taken a more visually integrated approach.

Kelly Liyakasa contributed.

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