Home Publishers NYT Brings New Paid P-R-O-M-O To Wordle

NYT Brings New Paid P-R-O-M-O To Wordle

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Today’s Wordle word of the day is “dough.” As in, Wordle is set to earn more dough for The New York Times.

The Times announced today it’s bringing a new ad experience to the hit word guessing game, which it acquired last January.

The mobile web version of Wordle now features interstitial video and display ads that will run after a user clicks “Play” and before the game loads on their screen. These ads will not appear in the Wordle app, The New York Times news app or on desktop or tablet.

For now, these ads will be sold directly rather than programmatically. Meal delivery app DoorDash is the launch sponsor for the new ad placement, and smart ring manufacturer Oura has also signed on.

The Times declined to say why it launched this product in the mobile web version of Wordle or whether mobile web is Wordle’s largest source of traffic. But the move is part of a broader initiative to expand ad offerings across the company’s portfolio, said Joy Robins, global chief advertising officer at New York Times Advertising.

Awareness first

DoorDash’s campaign, which started July 3 and will run through Aug. 16, features 30-second, skippable videos promoting its subscription service and other deals.

DoorDash subscribers can also use Wordle’s word of the day as a promo code for a 75% discount on one order every Wednesday (although this can only be redeemed once per subscriber).

DoorDash saw the new Wordle placement as an opportunity to drive awareness for its subscription service among a new audience that it couldn’t reach through the rest of its marketing portfolio, said Gina Igwe, VP of consumer marketing.

“Wordle has turned into a daily ritual for millions, and in 2022, Wordle was played more than two billion times,” Igwe said.

Although the promo code part of the campaign might seem like a lower-funnel performance play, DoorDash is approaching this as an awareness campaign first and foremost, Igwe said.

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“We hope to drive conversions down funnel, but because it’s a new [placement], we don’t exactly know what to expect,” she said.

Measurement

That uncertainty speaks to the difficulty brands have measuring performance on mobile after Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency initiative and other efforts to deprecate third-party cookies and mobile device IDs.

As a workaround, DoorDash will be measuring the campaign’s lower-funnel performance internally by tracking how many new subscriptions use the promo code each week.

Of course, people could simply find out the word of the day and use the discount code without actually playing Wordle. But because the code can only be redeemed after setting up an account, DoorDash sees that as a positive either way, Igwe said.

Still, DoorDash isn’t setting any hard expectations for brand lift or subscription conversions.

“With investments like this that are a little more risky, we have very loose goals,” Igwe said. “We’ll see what it gets us, then determine the increased investment over time.”

Besides, DoorDash is confident Wordle appeals to a wide audience that includes key target demographics, like Gen Z and millennials.

“These younger demographics, as well as the gamer audience, are some of our faster-growing segments,” Igwe said.

That reach among younger consumers is one of the main selling points for the publisher’s gaming vertical, said New York Times Advertising’s Robins. But she did not provide numbers detailing the gaming section’s reach among these cohorts.

Dual revenue streams

The gradual introduction of ads to Wordle since its acquisition illustrates the Times’ two-pronged monetization strategy.

It originally acquired Wordle to drive subscriptions for its gaming vertical and to entice players to sign up for subscription bundles. Now it’s supplementing the subscription revenue Wordle brings to the table with more ad revenue.

The Times also sometimes shows ads to paying subscribers. For example, Wordle’s interstitial mobile web ads will be shown to non-Games subscribers. So a subscriber to one of the Times’ other verticals, like Wirecutter or The Athletic, would still see them.

Wordle also features other display ads on desktop, which appear above the game.

And the Times launched the Wordle Flex Frame placement last August, which allows brands to create sponsored five-letter puzzles that can appear across the Times’ properties, but not within Wordle itself. For example, an ad could be placed in the arts section for “The Lion King” on Broadway with “Simba” as the solution to the puzzle.

From its increased monetization of Wordle to its efforts to make The Athletic profitable through brand sponsorships, the Times is embracing a heavier ad load, even for paying subscribers. While subscribers may bristle at seeing ads, the Times is hoping to introduce new placements gradually without inundating paid or unpaid users.

“We take user experience very seriously,” Robins said, “and we want to make sure that we are being intentional in anything we do.”

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