NewFronts Open With A Strange Pair--'The New York Times' And BuzzFeed

The online video NewFronts presentations began this morning with an "Odd Couples" one-two punch: The New York Times unveiling its expanding roster of video products and touting its expertise and tradition, followed by BuzzFeed this afternoon, presenting intriguing enlightenment about why we like cat videos, and why people share.

Can I just say this without a lot of journalistic varnish: So far, so very interesting.

The Times premiered its new Times Video offshoot and bragged about a rather formidable bunch of already-existing video, and its journalists and executives spoke of their employer in terms that would sound repulsive if it wasn't The Times.

Rebecca Howard, the new GM of video, said arriving at the Times is "like a dream come true." David Carr, the media columnist, explained that in fact, to the people he reports about and writes about, "My last name is New York Times" and said the sheer power of the brand "creates permissions and expectations. Bruce Headlam, the managing editor of video, compared the design and content of the Times site to a fine Swiss watch, a sports car and "holding an Apple product for the first time." He topped that off by calling the Times site "the most exciting Web site in the world."

I don't know why I didn't feel much of that was so over the top. People are kind of reverent about all things Times, so when Mark Thompson, the CEO of the company, said, of the site, "It's got to be done The New York Times way," no one seemed to be squirming in their chair.

It's like this: Meredith Kopit Levien emphasized the importance of the Times, by showing a short clip from "House of Cards," in which a character who's playing the House Majority Whip is angered that her aide didn't arrange for her to comment for an article in Times. When the aide reminds her she left instructions she didn't want to comment to anyone on a sensitive matter, she shoots back (in the scene the audience saw today), "It's the f---ing New York Times! You should have let me know!"

The Times presented an image of jumping in feet first on to the Times Video venture, making regular video features out of four print-product features--"36 Hours," "BITS," "Science Take" and "Corner Office" and afterward, she said the site will be looking for pre-roll adveritising and a lot more.

In her presentation, she also spoke of The Times' Paid Post feature, its native advertising product. She spent at least as much time touting it as a great advertising vehicle as stressing that readers will have no trouble knowing they're seeing advertising.

It was so... New York Times.

And BuzzFeed was so much like what it is, and its presentation a lot more thoughtful than anybody could have absolutely predicted.

Jonah Peretti, the founder and CEO, raced through an early history of viral video, and explained how when he was new at it (before BuzzFeed) people thought he was just wasting time. Now, he says: "Too much time on your hands has become the way people get their news and entertainment," through short, entertaining bits. Right now, he says 63% of BuzzFeed's 160 million monthly uniques come from mobile devices, a rapid growth pattern for a site that has only been doing video for the last year and a half.

He was followed by Ze Frank, who conducted a veritable clinic on how online video works, and why, noting for example, that video is now a proxy, and a good proxy, for conversation. We share and enjoy three kinds of video, he said: ones that speak to identity (That's what I'm like), as emotional gift (a cheer up video) or for information (read this!). Hope they have this video at BuzzFeed. You should watch it.


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