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Native Agency Approach a Priority for Digital Publishers

Checking in on the New York Times, Financial Times, and Bloomberg native agency efforts – and what it means for digital magazines

So maybe you’re not quite ready to launch your own native agency, but it’s interesting to note who is and how they’re doing it. And why. Is it to neutralize ad blocking? Generate more digital advertising revenue by attracting more buyers? Future-proof themselves? Yes, yes, and yes.

Native advertising, sponsored or branded content, whatever you want to call it, it’s emerging as the dominant form of advertising in digital magazines. Will there be a backlash? Perhaps. But, for now, it’s an interesting phenomenon to watch unfold, and Digiday is on top of it.

New York Times’ T Studio Started as Native Agency, Now Aiming for More

Here’s an interesting twist on the in-house content studio: Taking it out of the house and turning it into a full-fledged marketing agency. The New York Times is doing just that, Digiday reports.

“But today, T Brand Studio’s output is just as likely to be stripped of the Times logo and run on a marketer’s corporate website. The Times is expanding T Brand into an agency, with the full array of marketing products and services. The Times set a goal of doubling its digital revenue, to $800 million by 2020, and this is one of the ways it plans to get there,” Lucia Moses writes.

“Increasingly, the Times has produced work for marketers including Philips, Charles Schwab, Nike and Deloitte that’s run outside the Times site (the way T Brand is set up is that the client owns the content). For Philips, it has a five-person team that acts like a mini-newsroom, producing long-form articles for the electronics company on an ongoing basis. One-third of T Brand’s business is now coming from agency-type work, the rest from native advertising. All in all, the studio is on track to produce more than 100 campaigns and contribute 20-30 percent of the Times’ digital ad revenue this year.”

Financial Times Also Expanding Branded Content Agency

Another Times is also busy on the branded content front: The FT is growing its native agency with the acquisition of Alpha Grid, Digiday reports.

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“The FT established its content-marketing operation, called FT Squared, last September. It launched a suite of new ‘paid posts’ and ‘smart match’ formats, which clients including BP and Santander have run with. It ran a series of articles for BP including: ‘Changes in the World of Energy’ and ‘Why Scientists Give Science a Bad Name’ to promote the brand’s ‘Committed to the U.K.’ campaign. Readers have spend a total 230,000 hours with this content, according to the publisher,” Jessica Davies writes.

“Since then, the FT has grown branded-content revenues by 30 percent, accounting for 10 percent of all digital ad revenue, though Slade declined to give the raw numbers. In May, it appointed former FT tech and media editor Ravi Mattu as editorial director of FT Squared. The addition of Alpha Grid will fill the ‘gap in its arsenal’: the ability to create better branded content on behalf of clients, according to Slade. Alpha Grid specializes in creating content aimed at global business decision-makers: the FT’s core demographic.”

Bloomberg Magazine Marketing Focuses on Multimedia

Bloomberg’s Kinection native agency is relatively young, debuting within the past year and becoming official mere months ago, but it’s already got big aspirations, Digiday reports.

“Everyone has come to realize that bringing video, print and online together in the digital space with dynamic content-management systems will breathe a lot of new life into branded content. In the business space, one of the biggest challenges is how to make a talking head sexy. Brands have woken up to the fact that things need a little more context,” Bloomberg Media Studios Commercial Editor Arif Durrani told Lucinda Southern.

“If you get the content right, then it absolutely is comparable to engagement on editorial,” said Durrani. “I’ve never known us to not hit targets.”

Even if an in-house native agency is beyond scale, it still makes for an interesting phenomenon for magazines. What are your thoughts?

To read more about digital publishers’ native agency efforts, visit Digiday.

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