NYT’s NewFronts pitch: Did we mention the storytelling?

The New York Times kicked off the NewFronts Monday with a pitch to buyers that reinforced its quality-over-quantity message. Missed it? Here’s a recap.

The Pitch
The Times can’t compete with video powerhouses like Vice and BuzzFeed for sheer streams, but it has deep journalistic authority, and the Times made sure that wasn’t missed on its audience. Its presentation, titled “Every Angle,” was light on metrics but made repeated use of the words “storytelling” and “trust.” Translation: Sure, we don’t have BuzzFeed’s billions of video views or gimmicks, but we’re The New York Times.

Last year, the Times introduced a new video hub to house 14 video channels. On Monday, execs said the Times was building on that work with seven new and expanded series including tech-themed “Robotica” and animated financial explainers by DealBook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin.

The Times didn’t fail to mention that its video also just shared a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of Ebola, the point being that its video reflects the quality and breadth and depth of its written journalism. It also showed off some experimentation it has done with virtual reality to show that it’s not shy about trying out new technology.

The Times’ pitch has always been about quality over quantity, which is why it wants to drive video views on its site, to get the full advantage of its affluent audience. But the Times recognized it needs to think more expansively and go where people, particularly younger ones, are. To that end, the Times has created first-person videos such as this one that were primarily done for YouTube, and plans to increase production of Facebook-only video, even though the Times sacrifices some ad revenue this way. So far, the Times has repurposed existing videos into versions for Facebook; Bruce Headlam, managing editor of video for the Times, said the plan was to create original video for Facebook, but he didn’t have specifics yet.

There also will be more promotion of video on social channels, via newsletters and on article pages on the Times site itself. “We do 200 pieces of content a day, and it’s hard to find video,” Headlam said. “The fact is, at the Times, people expect to find video through the article more than anything else.”

The Times also used the NewFronts platform to make a big pitch for its T Brand Studio arm, which makes branded content for advertisers. The Times has created branded videos for advertisers including Cole Haan, Volvo and Shell, and with the high ad rates commanded by video, it’s no surprise that video continues to be a big part of the studio’s focus. To that end, the Times announced the selection of five independent filmmakers with Oscar, Pulitzer and Netflix credits to their names that would be working with T Brand Studio on a project basis. Times are tough out there for filmmakers, it seems.

The scene
A long wait to get in, dark lighting and moody music contributed to an exclusive atmosphere. Those who managed to make their way through the dark to the coffee were rewarded with scones baked from recipes supplied by Times food journalists, which made the NewFronts presentation “the most expensive bake sale on the planet,” quipped Rebecca Howard, general manager of video for the Times. Also another sign that journalists need to bring other skills to the table, literally.

Notable quote
“In a world today where to be the preeminent media brand is anyone’s game, it’s worth remembering that at the end of the day, it’s not about streams, it’s about the quality of the content,” said Times CRO Meredith Levien.

Buyer’s take
The Times’ message of using video to tackle a broad range of subject matter from food to fashion to tech resonated with Robin Steinberg, evp, director of publishing investment and activation at MediaVest. “Their position of telling stories from every angle is on brand for the New York Times. The sexy cool kids play very well with the nerdy set.”

Image courtesy of The New York Times.


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