Philip Ellis
News & Views
Can publishers win back trust at NewFronts?

The world’s leading media companies are going on a charm offensive as NewFronts 2017 begins. Essentially a two week carousel of media pitches, with publishers flaunting their assets in a bid to secure advertising revenue, NewFronts has become a pivotal event in publishing calendars — and presenters are going to have to try harder than ever to prove they can be trusted with your advertising dollars.

“Brand safety is one of those elephants in the room,” says DigitasLBi Chief Content Officer, Scott Donaton. He is referring, of course, to the notorious programmatic blunders which have plagued the video advertising sphere, placing branded content side by side with extremist propaganda.

However, Donaton believes that the NewFronts marketplace is conducive to building transparency and trust between publishers and brands, with a growing number of content conversations centering on bespoke partnerships and projects. “If the NewFronts stay true to what it’s about, which is premium original video content and media companies and brands working together, then it’s the opposite of fake news, programmatic and ads being placed who knows where,” he says.

“Whether it’s overt or not, the message will be consistent: There’s no risk to your brand when working directly with a publisher,” writes Digiday’s Sahil Patel.

The New York Times is one such publisher; the news media behemoth kicked off the event with a keynote which went behind the scenes in the newsroom. In addition to some enlightening explainers on its own high quality journalism, there was also plenty in the talk to pique the interest of advertisers.  

While the Times has seen a drop in print ad revenue, its digital ad revenue has grown, thanks in part to a steep rise in digital-only subscriptions. And as the organisation showcased at NewFronts, from VR to Snapchat to wildly popular podcast The Daily, there’s no shortage of digital content opportunities at the Times. In fact, branded podcasting may form a bigger part of new media pitches in the future; The Daily wildly outperformed the target number of downloads promised to sponsor BMW, and now the Times is looking to channel its award-winning journalism into more audio-based storytelling, in the vein of NPR’s Serial and S-Town.

Tailored content partnerships, while considerably more work, do make an attractive proposition from a brand safety point of view. After all; there’s no way a sponsored podcast is going to “accidentally” run an ad for an extremist group.

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