The New York Times’ First Native Print Ad Features Slick Infographics, Augmented Reality Videos

"MARKETING" Sketch Notes on Blackboard (advertising management)
Native advertising has been a staple on the internet for some time, but now advertisers can even look to print to distribute branded information that blends in with editorial content.

On Nov. 19, the New York Times unveiled an eight-page section of native ads for Shell titled “Cities Energized: The Urban Transition,” which illustrates the link between smart urban design and energy efficiency. The section appears online in the paper’s digital edition, as well.

The “advertorial” comes wrapped around the paper’s home-delivered copies (or around the business section for newsstand copies). The top sheet of the section is opaque vellum, so users can flip back and forth between the infographic on the cover and one underneath it on newsprint to see figures on urbanization throughout the world.

The print ads also feature “augmented reality” pages: readers can use the Blippar app to watch a video when they hold their smartphones over the page.

The goal of this particular campaign was to establish Shell as an expert on energy, with as few mentions of the company as possible.

The placement of Shell’s native advertising sparked debate among readers and analysts at Digiday, where the site noted that although native ads have “largely been an online phenomenon,” they’ve been slow to come to print. The Times, they say, have been sensitive to criticism of native advertising as “trying to truck the reader into thinking it’s editorial content.”

But Meredith Levien, executive vice president of advertising at the New York Times , defended the spread, saying that until now, previous native ad ideas never came to fruition because they weren’t worth the amount of space they would take up.

Levien told Digiday, “We wanted to do branded content at the highest level possible to capture the reader’s attention in a manner that’s befitting the Times.”

The ad was created by the New York Times ‘ in-house native ad production team T Brand Studio, in conjunction with Shell’s media agency MediaCom. The Shell native ad took about three months to complete.

“This type of campaign has a ton of upswing and we’ll see more and more like it,” comments Scott Trueblood, President of BrandVision Marketing, a full-service marketing agency. “There’s always going to be the concern of appearing too editorial and upsetting readers when they realize that they have been reading ad content. Shell was wise to minimize their company mentions in the piece and to just let the content do the selling for them. That subtle approach to a sales pitch is far more embraced by a reader who is caught up in the content of an article.”

Although a total price for the advertisement was not listed by either company, the New York Times‘s charge for content creation is estimated at a minimum of $200,000 alone.

The Shell ad arrives at a time when print advertising is on the decline for some publishers. Time Inc. announced earlier this month that the company had lowered its yearly revenue forecast due to a weaker-than-expected print ad sales from a $3.3 billion to $3.37 billion projection in August to a $3.27 billion to $3.3 billion projection now.

“The multi-media approach with the use of the app is also an instant winner for print users,” states Trueblood. “It creates layers of touch-points for the consumer and a great way to absorb information across platforms.”

Ukrainian Blogger Uses SEO to Challenge Russian Propaganda

'SEO' highlighted in green
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has raged for the past several months, has confused many observers around the world due to the lack of reliable information. As Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the area, it has fallen to a small number of Ukrainians and foreign citizens living in the region to fill in the gaps with their own coverage. One such source, a website called Lugansk News Today, has even managed to outrank one of Russia’s major news sites in Google searches for his hometown. And the website’s one-man staff accomplished this simply through effective SEO.Because of the popularity of the Russian language throughout many areas in Eastern Europe, including East Ukraine and Crimea, an overwhelming number of bloggers who reside in these countries post in Russian. Official Ukrainian print sources, such as newspapers and magazines, also write in Russian. For this reason, it isn’t surprising that Google searches in the Ukraine are geared towards russophones: according to Google Analytics, less than 30% of the search engine queries were in the area’s native tongue, even in the country’s most heavily Ukrainian-speaking region. In the Donetsk region, the most populated province, it was as low as 1.6%.

While some might see this as disheartening, one anonymous Ukrainian blogger has found a way to use it to his advantage: after his Twitter account, which documented a number of conflicts in the eastern city of Lugansk, amassed 13,000 followers, he began a news website to further document the region’s problems. However, instead of writing in Russian or Ukrainian, the blogger chose to write in an even more international language: English. His intention was to knock the Russian government’s English-language news service, Russia Today, off of the first page of Google’s search results.

So far, his efforts have been reasonably successful: he posts articles on Lugansk News Today, as well as the website’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and says that all of the sources are placed on the first page of results. By ensuring that his results regularly make it into the top five spaces, modern web-surfing habits ensure that he has a virtual monopoly on news about Lugansk (alternately Luhansk). Though he calls his success modest, the blogger says that Lugansk News Today represents his personal battle against Russian propaganda and big industry.

However, given that the website is run by a single writer, his SEO success is far from humble: thousands of individuals and companies around the world try consistently to achieve similar results, often hiring SEO marketing agencies to make the goal possible.

“This incident demonstrates that, with enough effort, you can achieve visibility on the web no matter what. This gives hope to the small businesses and independent marketers out there because if this guy can go against a massive, controlling government, then they can certainly compete against an industry competitor,” says Derek Bryan, Content Marketing Manager at Quez Media.

Lugansk News Today and its Twitter and Facebook pages typically cover the actions of pro-Russian terrorists in the city, who have reportedly kidnapped and tortured a number of the blogger’s friends, who are Ukrainian revolutionaries. On June 13, the blogger himself was forced to flee Lugansk after learning that two activists, including one of his close friends, had been kidnapped by men with Kalashnikov rifles. He has since started another news site, Ukraine Right Now, which aims to cover similar topics across the whole country, but says he is unsure if he has the resources or time to run the project.