NYT’s Homepage Ad Experiments Continue, With Video In Focus

Meredith Kopit LevienIn recent months, NYTimes.com has sought to refine its homepage ad strategy with the promise of something “unique” for large advertisers in consumer packaged goods, automotive, electronics and finance. The latest effort is on behalf of Bank of America and builds on the publisher’s evolving video strategy.

The twist in this case is an “interactive” takeover ad in support of a day-long webcast for an education conference called “Schools of Tomorrow,” which is airing live on The New York Times’ site all day Tuesday, from 7:45am to 6pm.

The homepage takeover came out of Idea Lab, NYT’s in-house marketing think tank. This past spring, it developed new homepage and article page ad units designed to reflect advances in presenting editorial content, such as the much discussed Snowfall project.

The new video ad units are overseen by Meredith Kopit Levien, EVP for advertising. Levien joined the NYT in July, jumping from her post as Forbes Media’s chief revenue officer. The BofA video takeover echoes Levien’s past work in building Forbes’ website around heavy use of native ads, in addition to static banners.

Aside from the focus on the homepage, the NYT also has looked increasingly to drive ad revenue from video. In April, the NYT put all its video content on the free side of its digital paywall, which is raised when a nonsubscriber has accessed 10 articles in a given month.

NYT has used custom ads to temper what it views as the “disruptive” nature of programmatic advertising to the traditional ad sales model the company has relied on. It’s not clear how much the NYT has used exchange-based selling, but it has been selective.

As for video, CEO Mark Thompson has emphasized NYTimes.com as a source of video news for consumers — and video audience for advertisers. Since opening up free video access this spring, Thompson told analysts last month that video ad dollars were minuscule, though growth in some months is “60%, even 100%.”

But even there, he was careful to note that video would not be central to the NYT’s ad efforts; The Times has seen display numbers struggle the past year (digital ad sales slipped 2.7% in Q2 and Q3 was trending similarly last month).  “We’re not the only publishing house focused on video,” Thompson said during the Q2 earnings call. “Over time we do expect CPMs to come down as a result, but the opportunity in video remains large.”

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