Some Notable Names in Media Are Rather Quiet About Ditching the NewFronts

Where is Gannett, Hearst, BuzzFeed and Bloomberg?

Some of the biggest names in media are missing from the NewFronts stage. Where are they? Getty Images

If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. That seems to be the cliché that many large media companies are hiding under as the NewFronts get underway.

This year, Gannett (parent of USA Today), Bloomberg, The Washington Post and Hearst are all sitting on the sidelines of the IAB’s annual showcase where (primarily) digital companies pitch their video wares to advertisers who really just want Facebook video views.

Perhaps these companies don’t want to pony up the $100,000 plus whatever it costs to rent out a giant room and put on a party full of food, alcohol and entertainment. According to an IAB rep, all fees associated with the NewFronts go to initiatives, like research, to support the growth of digital video.

Perhaps they don’t see a return on all the pomp and circumstance.

We can’t say why because they’ve all been mum. None would speak on the record. Some spoke off the record, which does this story no good, and some like Hearst and The Washington Post never returned my emails and calls. We will update the story should an executive at one of these outlets gets back to us.

After sharing a NewFront story about Disney Digital Networks’s NewFront from my colleague Lisa Lacy, Michael Pomposello, a co-founder at digital branding agency Blue Polo Interactive, remarked on Twitter how it’s “crazy to see how small the NY NewFronts are this year. No @Fullscreen, @defymedia etc.” I asked him why he thinks this is the case, and he said via Twitter, “A colleague at one of the aforementioned [media companies] told me the ROI wasn’t there for them last year. With YouTube on an accidental demonetization warpath, I’m shocked to see publishers not investing more in chasing direct deals. Even sans short turn ROI.”

I sent an email to Kevin Gentzel, chief revenue officer at USA Today (and, in full disclosure, my former boss at The Washington Post) asking why he thought certain large media companies aren’t participating, and his response: “That is a really good story idea.” He has not responded to my follow up regarding why USA Today, specifically, is sitting this one out.

Randall Rothenberg, the CEO of the IAB, said that “different companies have different needs. Many of them recognize it can also be an expensive proposition—looking at budgets, is this the year we want to do this? It’s all sui generis.”

BuzzFeed, while not having its own official NewFront, is glomming onto Twitter’s NewFronts, announcing it is extending its partnership for its live morning show “AM to DM.” The company’s approach this year is the same as last year’s: host a series of smaller, more intimate dinners and events for high-level clients. Of course, every media company participating in the NewFronts does this.

Some companies, clearly, see a benefit of participating in the NewFronts, which has not traditionally been about transaction—unlike the UpFronts, where billions of ad dollars exchange hands, the NewFronts are harder to track dollars or business wins—Group Nine Media, for example, is looking to change that.

“I expect this year that we’ll be transacting around our NewFront,” said Ben Lerer, CEO of Group Nine Media, which is the umbrella company for brands like The Dodo, Thrillist, and NowThis. “This year, for a bunch of reasons, not the least how we’re set up from an ad perspective and relationships we’ve built, I’ll think it’ll drive business for us.”

The IAB is doing a Fall NewFront in Los Angeles, so we’ll see if other companies missing out in the New York show will present there.

But it’s a curious thing how, in an age where ad revenue is constantly on the tips of media company sales orgs tongues, these large properties are passing up the opportunity to get in front of brands and agencies.

@joshsternberg Josh Sternberg is the former media and tech editor at Adweek.