Remember when newspaper print ads were practically a cultural institution? Stroll to the end of the driveway on a Sunday morning for that several-pounder edition and pore through the articles and the ads. Scan the sales at Macy’s, look for a new job, find a matinee time, decide which store has the best price on rib eyes — the Sunday tome was practically the gateway to the world. Then the Internet relentlessly and almost instantaneously stole print advertising’s relevance, leaving publishers searching for new ways to connect with readers and, just as important, generate revenue.
The New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT ) may have finally found that cup-of-coffee-worthy formula for advertising, infusing its smart editorial style into content that resonates with an advertiser’s audience in a way that preserves its integrity as a news source.
It’s been a long road back
It’s safe to say that the heyday of traditional newspaper advertising is over, but looking back at what once worked it seems there are a few ingredients for success: The advertising must be compelling and relevant enough to get consumers to spend time with it. But it must also fit its platform — that is, not compromise the spirit, tone and even journalistic mandate of its publication.
The Times recognized the need for innovation early, building one of the smartest and most clickable Internet portals for its flagship newspaper. Like many of its contemporaries, the company has replaced some lost ad revenue with digital advertising, but not nearly enough. It seemed something was missing. Across the Web, digital ad sales climbed dramatically in recent years, but stayed fairly flat at newspapers. Though moderately successful, banner and display ads and pieces from the ad exchanges never found a comfortable seat in the traditional news format. Ad perusers had plenty of other choices, after all, and consumers had left behind the notion of the newspaper as a place to shop.