The New York Times Announces New Digital Shows as NewFronts Get Underway

Virtual Reality Technology Also a Major Focus

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Since last year's NewFronts presentation, The New York Times has published branded content in virtual reality, such as Mini's
Since last year's NewFronts presentation, The New York Times has published branded content in virtual reality, such as Mini's Credit: Mini/The New York Times via YouTube

New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson began the company's third annual NewFronts presentation to advertisers Monday by saying that "the future of media is great content."

At the Times, "the trend toward a visual future is both obvious and it's accelerating," added chief revenue officer Meredith Kopit Levien.

To that end, the company announced plans for six new digital shows. The series will focus on topics like music, space exploration and productivity. The Times is hoping to ink one brand to sponsor each show, said Sebastian Tomich, senior VP-advertising and innovation.

The series are "The Fine Line - Olympics: Rio de Janeiro 2016," exploring how athletes train and compete; "Chartland," using charts to unpack the puzzles and problems of modern life; "The Inside Track: Making of Tomorrow's Hits," about the way hit songs are constructed; "Out There: News From the Other Side," a space series including a VR flight to the surface of Pluto; "The Art of Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business," on efforts to transform the way we work; and "Two Tales of a City," in which two travel writers visit the same places but on different budgets.

Virtual reality technology, a major investment area for the Times, was also top-of-mind Monday, building on the company's presentation a year ago. Last November, the Times distributed Google Cardboard VR viewers to home subscribers and published editorial reports in the format on subjects such as children displaced by war. Last month it published "The Click Effect," a VR story about diving with whales.

"Today we stand before as you as the leaders in virtual reality journalism," New York Times Magazine Editor in Chief Jake Silverstein told the crowd assembed at the Times Center.

The Times has also sought to generate advertising revenue from VR technology. Associate editor Sam Dolnick, presenting alongside Mr. Silverstein, said "virtual reality can produce memorable advertising." Some branded VR videos, he said, are more popular than editorial ones.

The Times has publihsed VR branded content such as the six-minute short film "Backwater" for Mini, created by WPP's KKLD, and a video for GE called "Nature Is Inspiring Our Industrial Future," produced by The New York Times's in-house T Brand Studio in conjunction with Hollywood studio Framestore.

Ms. Levien said T Brand Studio now has 90 employees who work on projects for brands, "from Big Yogurt to Big Oil." (On Twitter, OMD Chief Digital Officer Ben Winkler said, "Not sure that phrase was market-tested.")

She also teased the introduction of Times Story[X], which she said will be "a place and a space and a lab and a team of journalists and creators and technologies" dedicated to experimenting with visual and narrative journalism and technology.

Times Story[X] begins operations this summer, and Mr. Tomich said it will create projects that both the newsroom and T Brand Studios can use. (A company press release clarified that Times Story[X] will be "a rebirth of its [Research and Design] Lab as part of The New York Times newsroom and product teams.")

The Times hopes to interest advertisers in working with Times Story[X] -- "Come join us, come build with us, come learn alongside of us," Ms. Levien said.

Throughout the presentation, the Times pushed forward the idea that advertising is vital to support the company's high-quality journalism. "With great content, you need great advertising," said Mr. Tomich.

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