For The New York Times, Close (And Fewer) Partnerships Are The Key In A Changing Programmatic Landscape

Jay Glogovsky, vice president of revenue operations and analytics for The New York Times.

Jay Glogovsky, vice president of revenue operations and analytics for The New York Times, will be speaking at Programmatic I/O in Las Vegas from May 23-25. Click here to register.

In the post-cookie era, many in the industry anticipate power dynamics will shift to favor publishers, as first-party data becomes indispensable for targeting and media planning.

But that changing dynamic doesn’t mean a publisher needs to create distance from its partners. The New York Times is focused on its partnerships with advertiser and agency clients, as well as creating close working relationships with a limited number of DSPs and SSPs.

Glogovsky talked to AdExchanger about how The Times relies on these direct partnerships to create a positive ad experience for its readers, why open-web programmatic is the wrong choice for a privacy-centric in-app experience and why publishers should double down on close partnerships rather than worry about who will control the keys to monetization.

AdExchanger: The Times is considered a subscription-first business. How do you balance the ad experience with the emphasis on subscriptions?

JAY GLOGOVSKY: We are focused on fewer but more performant ads for our readers.

Advertising, subscriptions and our newsroom work are complementary, so any decisions we make on advertising have to align with our journalism and our subscription business.

Where does programmatic fit into your advertising strategy?

We still operate a programmatic business. The biggest difference in our ad experience is between our web and app environments. Our mobile apps are the most premium environment we have. And we made the proactive decision to make that even more premium by removing open auction from apps.

What is it about open-auction programmatic that doesn’t lend itself to a premium user experience?

With open programmatic auctions, it’s hard to understand who you’re working with, and it’s common to have advertisers we’re not comfortable with.

Apps are where we find the most engagement across our registered readers, and we want to have a clean, rich reader experience. We do that through relationship-based deals, whether that be direct or programmatic.

But we did not walk away from programmatic wholesale; we’re taking a more thoughtful approach to how we utilize it. We still value the partnerships we have with our programmatic technology partners.

Tell us about The Times’s approach to demand path optimization.

Publishers have more levers in their arsenal than is sometimes realized. It’s not just about SSPs; you can also limit the DSPs you work with. But you have to have justification and criteria around that [decision-making]. And we’re upfront with our buyers on the best paths to The New York Times.

We focus on working with a smaller set of programmatic technology partners on the SSP side. We are also actively working with fewer DSPs on the programmatic side and focusing on demand path optimization. That has resulted in a better ad experience and understanding of our readers’ needs. You can’t do that by allowing everyone in the universe on your site.

What does The Times make of The Trade Desk’s OpenPath initiative? Is The Times interested in direct publisher integrations from the demand side, or does it prefer to work with SSPs?

We’re familiar with OpenPath, and we are always going to encourage innovation in the industry that provides direct paths to publishers. But we’re still focused on our direct relationships with our advertisers.

Does prioritizing a direct relationship with advertisers involve limiting your DSP partners?

It’s about being thoughtful about the number of, and approach to, SSPs and DSPs. We’re evaluating both groups and ensuring they meet the criteria we hold our partners to.

As the ad ecosystem shifts to a new model where publisher first-party data matters more than ever, what are The Times’s priorities for using its first-party data to improve its advertising business?

We are lucky that over 100 million readers have registered and place their trust in our data privacy and our content.

We are striving to be privacy-forward and transparent. As we progress into the cookieless future, that puts us in a unique position to create targeting and planning tools that will provide performance media plans that are durable and resilient to these changes. If we look toward the short, medium and long term, you can’t do any planning for the business, or have those targeting capabilities and ad products, without a first-party data strategy.

The Times recently pulled back from third-party data partnerships in favor of building its first-party-data-based offerings, like contextual targeting. Is this your approach going forward, or is this a response to temporary uncertainty in the market while the industry transitions its data practices?

We would have made this shift to first party regardless of the tectonic shifts happening in the industry or the changes by a handful of platforms that control the browsers, because it provides a more privacy-forward approach to our readers. That’s paramount to us.

You don’t have to sacrifice performance with first-party data. We’ve seen a more performant ad product. We don’t plan, at this time, to change our direction. And we encourage the rest of the industry to also innovate toward a privacy-forward direction.

What is the key takeaway you want to emphasize in how The Times is reacting to the changing data and privacy landscape?

Regarding the idea that publishers are going to control the keys to monetization [in the post-cookie ecosystem] … there’s a lot of conversation within the industry about how the power dynamics are shifting.

Realistically, we’re focused on partnership. Who owns the power isn’t a conversation we should be having. We should be talking about how these changes increase the importance of partnerships and allow for improved partnerships with clients and agencies, as well as the few partners we work with on the ad tech side.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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