Welcome to the Mosh Pit

The New York Times Company announced last week that it will evolve its T Brand Studio into an advertising agency. Among its current clients for native advertising are Philips, Nike, Charles Schwab and Deloitte. The Times hopes that the evolution of its T Brand Studio will help move it beyond merely producing long-form articles to creating videos for clients such as Cole Haan that can stand on their own outside of the Times environment.

That same morning, I happened to be at breakfast with Andrew Essex, formerly CEO of Droga5 and now head of the Tribeca Film Festival. He told me that almost all of the major media companies, including Bloomberg, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, have similar studios. He said that the media companies are doing “cost-plus work, from $150,000 to $1.5 million per campaign.” He noted that born digital media such as VICE make no distinction between editorial and native advertising. He added that since many of the mainstream media companies are now being bypassed by media buyers, the companies have to go direct to clients for business.

We are working with other media companies such as VOX, The Atlantic and The Washington Post Company to bring top-class content to clients. Some of it is sponsored content on the media company site, but just as often, it could be a salon dinner for opinion leaders, special sections in the print edition, or material we use on the client’s own web properties.

Later in the day I received a link to Lew DVorkin’s terrific post on What Pokémon Teaches Us About Digital News in a Mobile World. He used comScore data to assert that the overall traffic to digital sites has flattened. For example, in the period from October 2014 to today, traffic at The Huffington Post is down from 119 million to 75 million unique visitors and Time.com dropped from 28 million in January 2016 to 23 million today. Meanwhile, VICE is up from 12 million in October 2014 to 26.5 million today (of which 20 million are mobile only) and The New York Times is up from 60 million to 70 million unique visitors (mobile only now 7.5 million). He also offered up a critical statistic that proves the power of search; from July 9-12, at the height of the Pokémon Go craze, three-quarters of the traffic to the Forbes Pokemon posts came from Google, and smartphone traffic was 75 percent of that total.

DVorkin observes that the “Pokémon/millennial audience is the next news audience.” He is launching new mobile formats in the coming months to serve that audience, which now accounts for half of the Forbes.com readers. “Digital and print strategies must be adjusted to sync with mobile consumption patterns that don’t favor classic storytelling formats.”

Mobile may only have 10 percent of the ad spend today, relative to 37 percent for TV and 19.5 percent for desktop, but it is predicted to rise to 22 percent by 2018, passing desktop at 16 percent, says Zenith Media. We are doing work for clients on mobile-only formats and will continue to increase the amount of short-form, shareable content we are producing. We are creating content with the intent of driving earned media via Collaborative Journalism, more so than just solely driving traffic to a site, and that gives us an advantage.

Richard Edelman is president and CEO.