PR & Journalism Leads the New York Times Native Advertising Entry

So the New York Times has finally made their first move into native advertising. Step aside Forbes Brandvoice, Buzzfeed, Businessinsider, The Atlantic…now the big boys are going native and my question is: What do we learn from the first foray into sponsored / branded content from a publishing giant?  Potential answers to several questions were indicated by the New York Times yesterday.

1. Who are the advertisers and their stories?

2. What will be the discovery mechanism used by the publisher?

3. Who will be the write and manage this content?

And it is perhaps the third question which is most interesting as the battle to control branded content going forward will be fought between the advertising and PR communities. It seems PR has won this battle in the first attempt at sponsored content at the New Yorks Times.

If you want to know more about the the impact of native advertising check out this post from Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute.

Advertisers and Stories

Not surprisingly the New York Times have been smart and have partnered with Dell as their first native advertiser. Dell are a company that truly gets the risks, rewards and importantly the ‘how’ of doing both  social and content marketing. Stephanie Losee, Managing Editor of Dell Global Communications is a professional with a considerable journalistic pedigree and their owned content property Tech Page One and their previous experience on Forbes in the form of Dell Voice shows they know how to do paid content marketing well.

As for the stories lets examine them. Here are the four headlines from the first 4 paid posts.

Can the Government become Entrepreneurial?

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 13.50.06

Will Millennials ever completely shun the office?

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 13.53.11

Reaching across the Office from Marketing to IT?

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 13.54.49

For women Entrepreneurs, Mentors Help Bridge the Gap?

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 13.55.07

All four stories are interesting from a reader perspective as they cover current subjects of interest such as entrepreneurial culture, generational attitudes to work, IT purchasing decisions and diversity and career development. These stories would be no stranger to any technology or business section of major media. But behind these stories lays clear intent from Dell to target defined buyer persona’s in Public Sector, Marketing, SMB and Startups. Three key segments for Dell’s success and obviously part of a much bigger integrated marketing program. The next exciting development will be to see who will follow Dell as the next native advertiser and what will happen if they don’t know the rules of the game quite as well as Dell. My guess is it will be other leading brands and advertisers that already have experience and success with sponsored content.

The Writers

Most striking about the Dell stories is the credibility and experience of the all writers which have created these articles. Michael Keller, Kim Anderson, Kathryn Doyle and Giovanna Fabiano. There are two common denominators here. Firstly they are all experienced and credible journalistic talents with solid track records. More interestingly though, although they have their freelance gigs they also work for Group SJR. Obviously Dell’s content agency of choice and now a part of Hill + Knowlton Strategies after an acquisition in June 2013. So formerly a 50 person content agency which is now part of one of the worlds largest PR firms and counts clients such as GE and Xerox on its roster is behind this content. SJRs former managing Partner and now Vice- Chairman at H+K Strategies, Alexander Jutkowitz, summarises the opportunity for the PR industry well when he says,

Digital content — original, daily and owned — gives companies and brands the power to tell their story, share their unique knowledge and find and engage the right audiences as never before.

My hunch would be that this is just the start for the PR agency world to take control of the native advertsing opportunity and use their well developed story telling skills to take advantage of the sponsored content opportunity. Having the right journalistic talent will be key.


The age of debate of “church and state” will be raging across editorial and commercial teams at publishers and within brands and their agencies during 2014. As the decades old business of advertorials from the print world evolves into the native advertising or sponsored content business of the digital world this debate will intensify. In most media markets maintaining editorial quality and clearly delineating editorial content from paid from content will be key in building reader trust in the new marketing tactic. However in some media markets like China where pay to play has always been the unspoken reality in media things may look a little different. In my opinion the New York times has not surprisingly favoured the “church” side of the argument with the title of its branded content platform being called Paid Posts. I prefer the Forbes and Buzzfeed approach but understand why a brand like the New York times is treading carefully.

What is clear is that this is a massive move for the New York Times. Other large media brands will follow in order to survive and a debate between publisher, brand and agency will continue to rage until the value for all sides is understood. But the same rules apply – good stories, well written with eye catching headlines will earn an engaged audience.


  1. I think it’s safe to say that we will see how New York Times start this approach by covering their behind from all critics to this intrusive shift of editorial space…, but trust me when I say that we will see their cautious approach open up when revenues are to interesting to turn down and where the advertisers need some tiny tiny adjustments.

  2. First time I experienced sponsored content in a magazine, I actually called the paper to complain (and have never bought it since then). I think New York Times takes a big risk here destroying their credibility. Agree with Peter above that money probably will loosen up their cautious approach.

    • Many agree with you Anna. Check out this post from the man who many years ago predicted the death of the press release I just think the economics and reader habits of the mainstream media and the advertising industry which has funded it for years will mean this will continue. If we don’t all go flocking back to print – media will need to find cheaper ways of producing content and brands will still need to market their message through different channel. But I agree it will be a bloody battle and native advertising could be either a saviour or a killer for some media brands. We can’t all be Buzzfeed or Forbes.

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