NYT Builds Programmatic Direct Sales Team

Publishers, like marketers, have created in-house programmatic sales teams and trading desks. Over the last six months, The New York Times Co. has built a six-person programmatic direct sales team as it’s responded to marketer interest and demand to transact in this way.

Sara Badler, director of programmatic advertising for the Times, came onboard in October 2015. In recent months, she hired a person based in London and one in Singapore to round out the team. RTBlog spoke with Badler about the effort, which dovetails with the Times' beginning to sell video inventory programmatically in February.

RTBlog: What drove the Times to open its video inventory to programmatic buyers?

Sara Badler: Markers were telling us that this is how they want to transact. Also, we migrated from FreeWheel to DoubleClick for Publishers [DFP] in January, so that we could transact programmatically through AdX.

I’ve been working with people in the programmatic operations team and looking at demand. It seemed that there was a need for a programmatic direct business. Our clients wanted high CPMs and high-impact ad units, but they often need to talk to a salesperson  -- so we addressed the need.



RTBlog: What are you seeing in the market as you’ve staffed up?

Badler: We’re seeing progress. My team is slim, but we work with the direct-sales team to talk with marketers, DSPs [demand-side platforms], agency trading desks, and the ad-tech companies that want to work with us. We’re seeing an increase in overall yield since we opened up. There’s often a shortage of video supply, so marketers often engage in private marketplace or programmatic reserve deals.

We get sold out at very high CPMs and transacting programmatically. It’s a  good problem to have. [Editor's note: The Times declined to specify a range for "high" CPMs].

RTBlog: What are your concerns about programmatic right now: brand safety, fake news, transparency, etc.?

Badler: We’re addressing those issues. That’s exactly why we’re here. We’re dealing with fake URLs and all of it. If you want to work directly with the Times, we suggest marketers, agencies, DSPs, and tech companies talk to our team. We want people to feel more comfortable transacting programmatically. We are doing business with marketers direct and agency trading desks. There are so many different ways of buying, it’s important for us to talk with everyone.

Everything about this industry is an education process. Whether internally at the Times or externally, we’re all trying to figure it out together. This landscape is constantly evolving and we’re trying to prepare for the next steps.

Right now, it’s header bidding. Every tech company that wasn’t in it, is now moving into it. We’re waiting to see what happens. My biggest concern is the constant change and the need to be ready for it.

Listening to our markers is really important. I want to see how our international business evolves.

RTBlog: When will the Times be involved in programmatic native?

Badler: We have a native unit called Flex Frame, but we aren’t transacting with it programmatically at the moment. There’s not enough scale -- but it’s coming.

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