Native Seen as ‘Salvation’ for Ad Woes

Media heads discuss need for ads to innovate

Native advertising may be old advertorials in new cloth, but formats like it are necessary to publishers’ survival, media CEOs said at an Advertising Week panel today.

“The salvation of advertising in digital is innovation,” said Jon Steinberg, president and COO of BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed, of course, is notorious for shunning the banner ad altogether and helping kick off the rush toward, and controversy over, native ads that look like editorial content. “People say advertorial, some people bristle.”

The New York Times has taken a more cautious stance toward integrating native advertising, but Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson, who joined Steinberg on the panel, sees a perfect opportunity for the publisher to meet advertisers’ growing demand for storytelling. “We’re thinking very broadly,” he told the room. (At the same time, the Times Co. has been shifting its dependence on advertising to subscriptions as ads have become a less reliable revenue stream.)

There wasn’t much flag-waving for print, even among the print stalwarts on the panel. New Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp said that Time Inc. is “no longer a magazine company.”  

“The foundation of our organization is the quality content we have,” he said.

Ripp said that Time Inc. has suffered from living in Time Warner’s shadow for years. The publishing unit is rich in profits, cash flow, database and audience, though, he said, and the task before him is to invest in creative ideas.

Ripp didn’t rule out buying more print, however, noting also that Time Inc. just bought American Express Publishing’s titles. “We’ll invest in digital, other print products.”

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