New York Times To Speak On The Future of Storytelling [PSFK 2016]

New York Times To Speak On The Future of Storytelling [PSFK 2016]

NYT T Brand Studio discusses what branded content studios mean for storytelling during workshop and talk at PSFK 2016

  • 21 march 2016

In late 2014, one of New York’s most venerated news publications announced it would be introducing a branded content studio to help restore its digital advertising revenue for growth. Since its inception, The New York TimesT Brand Studio has launched more than 120 programs crafting content to help brands connect with their audiences on a deeper level. At PSFK 2016 May 13, T Brand Studio culture editor Denise Burrell-Stinson and content strategist Katie Manderfield will share what branded content means for traditional news sources. Catch them May 12th as well for their workshop on video storytelling.

How is creating branded content different than traditional journalism?

Katie Manderfield:  At The New York Times, we have a strict divide between our newsroom and  business sides. That said, we certainly staff with an eye toward being able to provide brands the opportunity to tell stories with the same suite of capabilities as our newsroom.

For example, The New York Times is widely known for data visualization capabilities. We offer those same capabilities to brands whenever we can. Recently, brands are coming to us for creative marketing solutions beyond our platform.

Denise Burrell-Stinson: To be blunt, the difference is money. T Brand Studio doesn’t go into production on a project unless all aspects of the project are confirmed. The brilliance and passion that collects around a single project is extraordinary, but it’s necessary to allow time for all the voices to be heard and that can mean the days (and nights) are long and intense.

What are some of the challenges unique to branded content?

DBS: The issue of branding challenges us. Rich narratives and good storytelling are the stars of successful branded content, not the brands. One of the T Brand Studio’s highest performing pieces is one for the show “Orange Is the New Black” in 2014 which is about a women’s prison. The story is really about those women and what they’ve been through and there aren’t any branding barriers between the reader and the content. The audience response was incredible. It ranked right up there with newsroom content on and to this day, people still remark at the exceptional quality. It set an incredible precedent for how good branded content can be and we love bringing that learning to bear on our growing portfolio.

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There are many people who have deemed native advertising to be deceptive or unethical. What would you say to these critics?

DBS: Take a look at the work T Brand Studio has produced. We aim to put cool content in the path of any reader looking for it. If traditional advertising models were enough to keep publishers like The Times solvent, the current scramble to get into in every section of the market with profitable new products and platforms wouldn’t exist. I’ve only worked for The New York Times for a year, but have loved it as a reader for nearly my entire life. I have no interest in tainting the strength of that mission or my passion for it by degrading its legacy. For any creators of branded content who slime their way around the marketplace, I say this to you: Go home. You’re making it harder for the good among us and alienating more people than you satisfy.

KM: As more publishers get into the branded content space, our readers have an expectation that the branded content is on par with the storytelling experiences offered by our newsroom. It means that a lot of eyes are on our work and we have to uphold the utmost respect for our audience. We’ve been ahead of the FTC guidelines about native content per our own vigilance at being transparent with our advertising content. We clearly mark everything that’s paid for and label it with a blue bar so that there’s no confusion. We never want a reader to click on one of our Paid Posts thinking it was a newsroom story. At T Brand Studio, we might work months on a content program — we want people to read it because it’s a great branded experience.

How do you see the role of newspapers changing in the next 10 years?

DBS: Newspapers will be around in 10 years much the same way they are now.  A few will disappear along the way but most of the big dogs will still be around. It’s 20 or 30 years from now when the crystal ball gets hazy. I think news consumption will be a hyper-customized experience. My home page or front page could end up being completely different from the person right next to me although we’re technically reading the same newspaper.

KM: The role of newspapers will undoubtedly continue to evolve. As a destination for news, it’s in the best interest of our industry to be as relevant, agile and innovative as possible. At the same time, we need to ensure that our reporting remains consistently the most important mission, especially in an era where fact-checking and accuracy must compete with speed. To me, that’s the promise of institutions like The Times: accurate, comprehensively researched and high-quality information will always be in demand, and I can’t foresee a healthy evolution of our society where that wouldn’t be true.

What do we have to look forward to for your talk at PSFK 2016?

DBS: Branded content studios are everywhere. Practically every major media company has launched one, but I think the content studio craze will go the same way as the startup gold rush of the early 2000s and the one-off projects that dominate now will give way to long-term partnerships. Our presentation will focus getting a conversation going to see what we can all be doing now to stay in this game for the long haul.

KM: Brands can now create high-quality branded content that can compete with material people pay for and subscribe to. There’s going to be an entirely new exploration of what branded content can do. Budgets will be bigger and so will the stakes: Great content is expensive and timely to make and it’s the role of content studios to deliver audiences with impact. Personally, I’m thrilled by the artistry and imagination that’s happening in the content space. From branded podcasts to web series to augmented reality experiences, we’re on the upswing of an incredible creative revolution happening at the intersection of media and advertising.

To hear Denise, Katie,  and other thought leaders inspire Ideas That Transform, join us at the PSFK 2016 conference on May 13 in New York City. Check out our events page to see speakers, workshops, and more. Sign up for a PSFK membership at the checkout to save $300 on the total package. Get your tickets today!

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