Less than a year after hiring Matt Prohaska as its first programmatic advertising director, The New York Times has let go of the ad-tech veteran.
"My position here at NYT was eliminated yesterday afternoon and my last day in the office will be this Friday," Mr. Prohaska wrote in an email blast Wednesday afternoon, a copy of which was forwarded to Ad Age.
"It has been a privilege representing The New York Times in leading its programmatic initiatives with all the success we have had and a pleasure working with you in helping us get to where we are," he wrote. "Wish we had the chance to do more."
Mr. Prohaska did not immediately respond to messages requesting comment. A spokeswoman for The New York Times was not immediately available for comment.
The New York Times hired Mr. Prohaska last April to help its salespeople understand programmatic ad technologies. Instead of segregating programmatic from direct sales as other publishers have done, partly in an effort to avoid undermining ad prices, The Times has integrated the two platforms.
Mr. Prohaska went on sales calls, but was not himself charged with selling ads.
His exit is a bit surprising given The New York Times' embrace of automated ad sales under advertising boss Meredith Kopit Levien. In an interview during Advertising Week in September, Ms. Levien said that "automated [ad] buying is certainly a reality." She said the company was looking to experiment with selling ads on its sites through private ad exchanges and automating direct deals. "It's just a question of what inventory to make available."
However The New York Times has also embraced new so-called native ads that appear to be the polar opposite of ads sold programmatically. For one, the sponsored posts rolled out in January seem to be more lucrative than commoditized standard banners. And they are sold the old-fashioned way, through a direct sales team.
The change comes as the Times looks to grow digital ad revenue, after posting losses several quarters of losses that it blamed partly on programmatic buying trends. In the fourth quarter, digital ad revenue was flat -- declining 0.2% -- an improvement from the third quarter when digital fell 3%, a sharper decline than print.
During the company's most recent earnings call, CEO Mark Thompson said 2014 "will be a critical year in the story of advertising at the company."
Contributing: Michael Sebastian