The New York Times will double down on its digital video investments across both storytelling and advertising platforms as the storied newspaper looks to carve a sustainable “path forward” in an age of rapidly declining print revenue and readership.
Among the key changes ahead for the Gray Lady, executives outlined a plan to transform its in-house native advertising operation, T Brand Studio, into an agency of its own, according to a report (titled, appropriately,”Our Path Forward“) released Oct. 7.
The move comes as the rise of ad-blocking software continues to shake-up the ad landscape for brands and viewers. The Times is looking to get ahead of a trend towards integrated advertising, with the new agency focused on providing “a broader array of marketer products and services around content ideation, creation and distribution.” Since its inception two years ago, T Brand produced work for more than 50 marketers across nearly 100 campaigns, and represents one of the fastest-growing parts of the newspaper’s business to date, the report states.
The paper will also put more money into telling news stories across multi-media platforms, with an eye on better tailoring that content specifically for mobile and growing its presence in the live-streaming space.
As in the ad space, The Times isn’t a complete newcomer to video. The paper has put increased emphasis into producing mini documentaries and, more recently, added complex 360 elements to its journalism offerings.
“We’re past the days when we’re simply sending out video journalists and saying, ‘Just record what the story is and it will be a different version of what you could read in the paper,'” said Bruce Headlam, then the NYT’s managing director of video, in an 2014 interview with StreamDaily.
That effort to date has paid off in the form of Emmy Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize for the Times’ video coverage of the Ebola crisis in West Africa. The paper’s video ambitions have not been without problems, however. Earlier this year, Headlam was re-assigned to another senior role in the newsroom, while Rebecca Howard, then GM of video, left the company “to focus on emerging media platforms,” according to the paper. At the time, executive editor Dean Baquet said the shuffle was prompted by a move to “undertake a broad rethinking of our video operation, including what we produce and how we distribute it.” The paper appointed Steve Duenes and Zander Baron in July to oversee the department while it reexamined its operations.
The increased shift to video is part of a broader plan by The Times to attract younger readers. Currently, it estimates 40% of its mobile audience is under 35 years old. The paper is also poised to become the first news publisher to hit 20 million followers on Twitter and 10 million “likes” on Facebook. The Times’ new report says it intends to build its social media presence through new formats, including Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News and Snapchat.
The Times doubled its digital-only revenues to roughly $400 million in the last year, according to the report. That amount, the report states, is on par with the total amount earned over the same time period by digital competitors The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Vox Media and Gawker.
The paper has set a goal of ringing in more than $800 million a year in digital-only revenue by 2020, a plan that requires doubling its digital subscribers (which recently tipped one million.)
In a memo to staff that followed the release of the new report, Baquet and NYT CEO Mark Thompson acknowledged the revenue and readership targets are ambitious. But, they said, should the paper achieve its goals, “We will secure our journalistic mission for the long term as well as create one of the world’s most successful digital content businesses.”
Photo of the NYT newsroom from Facebook