The Symbiosis Of Ads And Subs, With The NYT’s Lisa Howard

Lisa Howard, global head of advertising and marketing solutions, The New York Times

When it comes to digital advertising, less is more – but there’s no reason to hide.

Don’t apologize for having to monetize, says Lisa Howard, global head of advertising and marketing solutions at The New York Times, on this week’s episode of AdExchanger Talks.

The goal at the Times, she says, is to create the most compelling ad experiences possible, “not the most volume-wise, but the better kinds of experiences” that drive performance for brands.

“[We’re] unapologetic about ads, unapologetic about data, [we’re] just on the right side of both of those things,” she says.

The Times stopped running open programmatic ads in its apps in 2020 and closed down two of its advertising services businesses.

“A lot of media companies have come out and said, ‘Yeah, yeah, we’re first-party, but then they layer in all of this other third-party stuff to get scale,” Howard says. “We sit on over 100 million registered readers who understand our data privacy policy, and we build off of that.”

Last year, the Times said it would stop using third-party data for audience targeting in direct buys.

Of course, not all publishers have the ability to do what the Times has done. The Times, with its gravitas and scale, is generally an exception to the rule, while smaller and midsize publishers struggle to make ends meet. (Howard gets into that.)

The Times, for instance, is able to declare itself a “subscription-first business” and actually make that happen. The NYT hit 10 million subscribers in February, helped along by the 1.2 million subs that came along with its $550 million acquisition of sports news site The Athletic earlier in the year.

“We have made expensive calls to protect the experience,” Howard says, referring to the NYT’s decision to step away from programmatic. “But that, combined with bigger, better digital ad products is unique. That’s our competitive advantage.”

Also in this episode: Monetizing The Athletic, what it means to build “clean” data products, NYT Cooking recipe recommendations, why print still matters and the connection between open water swimming and maintaining one’s sanity.

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