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Changing 'Times' heralds new direction

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It may not be extreme, but the New York Times Co. is getting a serious makeover.

Last month, the company announced several moves designed to deliver more integrated sales packages to marketers, prepare the company for an increasingly digital world and boost the brand of its flagship newspaper.

The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune will combine their ad sales operations globally, starting Jan. 1, 2007. Sales reps for the New York Times Co. working in offices in the U.K., France, Germany, Switzerland and Hong Kong will be able to offer integrated sales packages involving both brands.

(In January 2003, Times Co. bought out the Washington Post Co.'s 50% stake in IHT for $65 million, giving it full ownership of the newspaper.)

Times Co. has recruited Washington Post veteran Michael Rogers for a one-year appointment to the newly created position of "futurist-in-residence." He will serve as a consultant to the company's Research & Development unit.

The New York Times launched a branding campaign with the tagline "These times Demand the Times ." The campaign's print ads feature some of the newspaper's reporters and the ways they work their beats.

Integrating ad sales for The New York Times (1.1 million daily circ.) and the IHT (242,182 circ.) follows a similar move Times Co. made last fall in merging print and online ad sales for the New York Times Media Group, which includes The New York Times, NYTimes.com, WQXR-FM, IHT and IHT.com as well as other media properties in print, broadcast and radio.

"We're already doing quite a bit of joint selling, and [merging The New York Times and IHT sales staffs] is in response to the marketplace wanting more cross-product deals," said Todd Haskell, VP-business development for the New York Times Media Group.

Haskell said the move will stoke b-to-b ad sales for both The New York Times and IHT. "We have a greater reach into b-to-b opinion leaders than anybody else," he said, referring to the Media Group's 20 million unique users per month. "By giving advertisers the opportunity to reach the global b-to-b community, we'll help them use our products a lot more often."

With more integrated ad sales, Times Co. is aiming to compete head-on for global ad dollars with The Wall Street Journal (2.1 million circ.) and WSJ.com (768,000 circ.), which integrated their print and online ad sales teams earlier this year. NYTimes.com has 12.3 million monthly unique readers, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

Integration long overdue

Media buyers said integrating the ad sales of The New York Times and IHT was long overdue. "Reality finally caught up with `internal-speak,' " said Beth Gray, media director at DraftFCB, whose clients include Hewlett-Packard Co., Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and PricewaterhouseCoopers. She estimated that 20% of the requests for proposals the Times Co. responds to are integrated and global, "and they really need be around 80%."

Gray added: "The Times has been plodding along in the global ad space, and IHT hasn't really been a hard-core read. But with the infusion of a single-minded [sales] goal, it'll become a stronger publication and an excellent buy for clients."

Ad revenue for the Times Media Group declined 4.2% in August from a year earlier, while overall Internet ad revenue for Times Co. rose 17.2% in August due to growth in both display and classified advertising.

Times Co. is betting that the new branding campaign for its flagship product will lift its other properties. The campaign, which was produced in-house, was launched Sept. 18 to coincide with the new fall TV season.

Thirty- and 60-second spots illustrate, in reverse, the unfolding story of how news is reported, beginning with the finished paper in the reader's hands and working backward to the reporter on the ground. Spots ran on ABC's "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy."

The Times targeted the business audience with online banners and 30-second videos on Yahoo! News. Additional print and radio will be launched before the end of the year. The budget for the campaign was not disclosed.

Futurist-in-residence Rogers' marching orders are to help map out how society, technology and media products will intersect in the next few years.

"The acceleration of broadband trends has just started," said Rogers, who most recently was running Practical Futurist, a consulting firm. "The first area we'll look at is how editorial gets more involved in mobile technology."

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