New York magazine, fresh off its stellar performance at the National Magazine Awards for editorial excellence, is in the process of building out an in-house branded content studio.
The department, which will include about 11 staffers once additional hires are made and some staffers move from other departments, is being led by Justin Montanino, who began at New York on Feb. 22. Mr. Montanino came from Fusion, where he served as director of development for branded content.
New York is already active in the branded content space; 33% of the company's digital ad revenue in 2015 came from native ads and custom executions. But publisher Larry Burstein said that New York will become more proactive, pitching branded content campaigns rather than simply including branded elements when requested in RFPs.
"The creation of this studio means that we can go out here with native ideas to sell and to execute," Mr. Burstein said. "We have this really robust brand business, and we felt that we could add this on to it and expand our offering to advertisers."
Mr. Burstein said New York is already strong in the entertainment and fashion advertising categories, partly because of the website's sections devoted to those sujects, Vulture and The Cut, respectively. New York recently did a 1973-themed homepage takeover, for example, to promote the HBO show "Vinyl."
But Mr. Burstein said he hopes New York can make inroads into the "thought-leader" category, and expects to become active in automotive.
Mr. Montanino said he had been intrigued by the chance to work on branded content at a company with such standout editorial. "With any publisher, with any in-house agency, the goal is always to create quality work that's on par with editorial," he said. "I think that's difficult to do anywhere, but here at New York the editorial side of this company has really set the bar as high as it can be."
Right now, Mr. Montanino is focused on staffing up the studio and examining the company's existing branded content apparatus.
Mr. Burstein said the studio "will be up and running soon." But before it can launch, he and Mr. Montanino have a more short-term challenge that could have longer-term consequences: picking a name for their new shop.
"I have a lot of names kicking around in my head," Mr. Montanino said. "We're going to settle on that sometime soon."