The New York Times Can Now Predict Your Emotions and Motivations After Reading a Story

A new tool, unveiled at the NewFronts, will share those insights with advertisers

Publisher A.G. Sulzberger and Wesley Morris, critic at large, chat at the publication's sixth NewFront. Sara Jerde for Adweek
Headshot of Sara Jerde

The New York Times is selling emotions to brands. Thanks to a tool it launched last year, the Times has used reader insights and machine learning to determine what its articles make readers feel, including happy, sad, hopeful and 15 other emotions.

The so-called “feels score” is then pitched to brands seeking to buy inventory near stories that make readers feel that particular emotion. Now, the Times is taking those insights one step further and determining readers’ potential motivations after reading the stories, executives touted at its sixth NewFronts presentation this morning, held at New York’s TheTimesCenter.

Those motivations could include planning for the future, splurging or wanting to learn more about the topic. The ability to target readers’ motivation will go live in the fourth quarter, said Allison Murphy, svp of ad innovation. Also coming soon is the ability to target a particular topic.

The Times can distinguish to advertisers a particular topic, such as a sports score versus a sports scandal or health content that is true medical treatment versus speculative. Protecting readers’ security, it’s a move toward “innovation instead of invasiveness,” Murphy said. Launching in the fall will also be a new product, called Campaign Scope, that shows deep insights into how campaigns performed, across sections and with those machine learning analytics.

The Times’ editorial team was also widely on display, with representatives from throughout the newsroom onstage to promote their teams’ work.

Seb Tomich, global head of advertising for the Times, gave some insight into the outlet’s most popular work since last year’s NewFront presentation.

The author of the Times’ most read piece—the anonymous op-ed authored by someone inside the Trump administration who disagreed with its policies—is only known by three people inside the newsroom. The most-liked social post (below) was a picture of Nancy Pelosi looking at President Trump and its most asked question to its new workplace advice column was: “Can I date my co-worker?”

The light-hearted kickoff by Tomich was appreciated by TheTimesCenter crowd, who chuckled at the jokes, perhaps briefly forgetting that they were forced to hand over their cups of coffee before heading into the first publisher presentation of the week.

As Tomich told Adweek ahead of the presentation, the publisher is getting into new areas of revenue, but “by no means are we in a world where we’re pivoting to audio. Audio, like video, like our efforts in TV, [is] another format for us. But The New York Times plans to be in as many formats and in many different businesses overall.”

Here’s a taste of what that looks like in the year ahead for The New York Times:

Events

The New York Times’ food festival will be a weeklong celebration in October, with events held throughout the city. That includes talks about food, a weekend takeover of Bryant Park with vendors and takeovers of top restaurants in New York over the course of several days. It will be sponsored by Mastercard.

The Times has already recognized its value in food coverage, and launched its cooking app, NYT Cooking, as a standalone subscription service. As of the third quarter last year, the service had over 120,000 subscribers. NYT food correspondent Kim Severson and TV host Rachael Ray discussed onstage a bit about cooking for the modern age and for millennials, giving advertisers a taste of what those food-centric discussions will look like when the festival launches.

The Daily

It’s difficult not to talk about the growth the Times has seen in recent years into new revenue streams without mentioning The Daily, which the company said was its most downloaded show last year and has garnered 8 million monthly listeners. Host Michael Barbaro said that the team has grown from just four people to 17 since it launched in 2017. To take the show to the next level, it will hit the road. Its first destination is London, where it will hold a weeklong program.

The Weekly

Editors were also on hand to tease the Times’ upcoming show to FX and Hulu, The Weekly. The show will have a 30-episode first season, which will premiere in June. Each 30-minute episode will highlight a Times reporter and the particular story he or she is working on.

Publisher A.G. Sulzberger said at the beginning of the presentation that he foresees audiences gravitating toward the same news providers who have built strong relationships with them and pointed to The Weekly as a way of reaching those audiences in other formats, though he conceded, that “television is a new medium for us, we’re still figuring it out.”

Those attending the presentation were also treated to a live crossword puzzle solving session, with Sam Ezersky, associate puzzle editor, and Deb Amlen, senior staff editor. Those in the room (who stuck around long enough to finish the puzzle, though many others began to depart) solved it in about 10 minutes.


@SaraJerde sara.jerde@adweek.com Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.
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