The New York Times quietly brought ‘open programmatic’ ads back to its app

  • The New York Times is bringing open programmatic back to its mobile app.
  • The publisher pulled these ads in 2019 due to a poor reader experience.
  • The New York Times is working directly with adtech firms to power these ads.

The New York Times is increasing ad revenue by reintroducing open programmatic advertising to its mobile app. Open programmatic is a method that allows any advertiser to purchase digital ads in real time.

The Times removed open programmatic ads from its mobile app in 2019 because it wanted to focus on growing subscriptions and because the ads slowed the app’s load times. The Times’ website still featured programmatic ads.

However, the Times quietly expanded its programmatic initiatives earlier this year to allow some of its adtech partners to sell those ads on its News app as well. The New York Times’ popular News app is the top free offering in Apple’s App Store’s news category.

“Given recent industry advances, and after conducting an in-depth experimentation and testing phase, we have reintroduced high quality open-programmatic ads in our News app and website,” said a spokesperson for the New York Times. “These advertisements do not detract from our reader-focused, premium experience.” We’ve seen positive results from other limited onsite experiments with strict quality control measures, and we’ll continue to investigate this area.”

The New York Times did not say which adtech partners are permitted to sell ads on its News app.

According to its ads.txt file, which lists the companies publishers allow to sell programmatic ads, it currently allows Google, Index Exchange, PubMatic, and Magnite, among others, to sell programmatic ads on its desktop website.

The move demonstrates how publishers like the Times are becoming more adept at selling programmatic ads at scale while maintaining premium quality, according to Matt Barash, SVP of the Americas and global publishing at Index Exchange.

Open programmatic is also beneficial to publishers during difficult times because it attracts marketers looking for low-cost, easy-to-purchase ads.

In recent quarters, The Times has touted the recovery of its digital advertising business. During an earnings call in August 2022, the Times reported that its digital advertising business had declined 2.4%, due in part to macroeconomic factors and a lack of programmatic inventory, according to company CFO Roland Caputo at the time.

This year, however, has been a different story. During the company’s August earnings call earlier this year, CEO Meredith Kopit Levien stated that advertising performance exceeded expectations, with digital advertising up 6.5%.

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