Published June 2016
The New York Times aims to deliver valuable news and information to readers, wherever they may be consuming content. With the growing consumer shift to digital, the company developed a variety of properties and platforms to provide readers with quality experiences across all screens, including a virtual reality app for Android with Google Cardboard. With more than one million digital-only subscribers in 2016 consuming content across all of these expanding platforms, however, The New York Times faced a new business challenge: creating a sustainable advertising model that efficiently and effectively scaled across all of its properties.
Building a sustainable advertising model with Flex Frames
Over the years, The New York Times has experimented with different advertising models to find a solution that prioritizes readers’ experiences while keeping an eye on its bottom line. “If we don’t create useful and engaging ad experiences,” says Nicholas Van Amburg, Managing Director of Ad Innovation at The New York Times, “our business is not going to be sustainable and successful long-term.” With that in mind, the team developed “Flex Frames” in September 2015. Flex Frames are an advertising model where the ads seamlessly integrate with a reader’s experience of content.
While Flex Frames successfully adapted to the look and feel of its content across all screens, The New York Times quickly ran into roadblocks when attempting to scale this new ad format to all of its diverse properties across the web and in apps. The innovation team found themselves overwhelmed with long hours of coding and compiling individual ads for review by advertisers.
Scaling Flex Frames with DoubleClick
With Native Ads on DoubleClick, the team found an efficient way to expand their Flex Frames offering. The team created a library of native styles adhering to the Flex Frames guidelines in DoubleClick for Publishers. Advertisers now provide a single set of components for their ‘flex’ ads — image, headline, copy, etc — and DoubleClick automatically compiles the right creative from these components, applying the right style to match readers’ contexts — meaning the device, the content, the amount of space available, and more.
In the past, Flex Frames took an enormous amount of time because each layout required handholding. But, with Native Ads on DoubleClick, the advertiser can supply one set of assets and it can automatically distribute it to different layouts and formats.
Better viewability and greater engagement with Flex Frames
The New York Times pushed further, using its first party audience data to serve advertising that was most likely to be relevant for each individual reader, in both format and content. “If we know a reader is more likely to watch video content than view photos in a carousel,” Lauren Reddy, Associate Director of Audience Development at The New York Times explains, “we can serve him or her a piece of video advertising rather than a photo story." With this scaled approach to deliver native ads relevant to a user’s interests and context powered by DoubleClick, the team saw a 6X increase in CTRs with 4X more viewable impressions. The response from advertisers has been positive as well, as they have jumped to take advantage of this new type of inventory.
The seamlessness of the user experience has improved our performance all around.
Setting the pace for the future
As content channels and screen types continue to increase, The New York Times will look to Flex Frames and native advertising as the key to creating a scalable and sustainable business with ads that drive engagement. The next frontier in their native ads strategy is making Flex Frames available to programmatic buyers in partnership with DoubleClick. Van Amburg says, “Our innovation and partnership with DoubleClick will bring more scale and opportunity to our platform. Working with DoubleClick on native ads is a really exciting step in the right direction.”