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Pathmatics Blog

Fueled By The Current Political Climate, Top Publishers Use Social To Target New Readers

January 17 2018 by Jordan Kramer
Publishers using another publisher to increase brand awareness and expand readership? In an age where the political climate continues to make front-page news on a daily basis, this is the case with Facebook advertising. Top publishers are using the social platform to target new and returning users with their digital advertising campaigns.
Many of those publishers are focusing the majority of their digital ad budgets on social campaigns alone.
How does this look across some of the Nation’s top outlets that offer online subscriptions, like the New York Times, LA Times, and The Washington Post? Here’s a look at how those three publishers are incorporating social into their ad strategy, and how their strategy has evolved over time.

New York Times Adds Stricter Paywall, Looks to Expand Readership with New and Returning Subscribers

Out of the three publishers, the New York Times is running the largest amount of social advertising on Facebook mobile. Social dominates their ad strategy, consuming over 93% of their budget in 2017. Primarily running Facebook link post ads, the New York Times released over 11K unique social creatives during the year targeting Android devices and top metros NYC and Los Angeles. Over half - 61% - of the New York Times’ Facebook ad spend was served to a female audience.
While aggressively recruiting for subscribers on Facebook, the New York Times is also promoting brand awareness with creatives that have intriguing titles directing readers straight to articles, and therefore increasing site traffic. For the NYT, this strategy leads to their now stricter paywall because once you view five articles you will be prompted to subscribe. That number was 10 until December 1st, 2017 when the publisher announced they were cutting the limit.
Leveraging a climate they are referring to as a “very hot news cycle” filled with Trump administration details and sexual harassment cases, the publisher is hoping to increase its paid subscriber base. The paywall is the second move for the publisher that originally enforced the ten article limit in 2012. Now that the demand for quality journalism is higher than in recent years, they feel they are in a good position to up the restrictions.
Whether through ads that have subscription call-to-actions or ads that direct consumers to actual articles, the funnel for the NYT just got a lot shorter with an increased opportunity for targeting and retargeting.
The top creatives for the publisher are looking for new subscribers, reading: “Firsthand reporting that brings you the facts” Subscribe today and save.”
The publisher is also doing re-subscription targeting, running creatives with messaging like: “Because you’re a former subscriber, click below to access a special offer from The New York Times.”
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LA Times Uses Social To Drive Traffic

Moving over to the West Coast, the LA Times is also putting emphasis on social advertising. Facebook mobile consumed nearly 70% of their digital advertising budget during the year, followed by desktop display with the majority of the remaining share. Nearly 700 unique social creatives were released in 2017, reaching a predominately male and Android audience. 
Contrary to the New York Time’s bi-coastal targeting, the LA Times has a more regional approach targeting the LA metro area with an estimated three quarters of their social spend. 
What’s also different from their East Coast competitor’s strategy is what the publisher is promoting with their social ads. The majority of their top ads are in an effort to gain traffic, directing readers to a variety of articles from day trip ideas around the city to local events like the LA Food Bowl.
The LA Times did run consistent creatives to target new subscribers directly, promoting an offer for eight free weeks while other creatives touted the history of the brand (“Telling fact from fiction since 1881”). But, the bulk of their strategy was focused on bringing readers to the site.
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Washington Post Looks For New Subscribers

Claiming that their competition includes “Hulu, Netflix and any place a user might spend their time,” the Washington Post is running the least amount of social campaigns compared to the New York Times and LA Times. Only 26% of their digital budget during 2017 was directed to social, while desktop video consumed the majority with 40% spend share. 
The DC metro area was a top target for The Post, followed by NYC and the Tampa Bay area. Over two hundred social creatives were released throughout 2017, finding their way to a female majority and Android heavy audience. 
Social creatives were primarily focused on driving new subscribers to the site with offers of digital subscriptions and “unlimited digital access.” Following the Inauguration, February was the biggest month of the year for the publisher in terms of social spend and impressions. Directly after the Inauguration, the creative below was launched asking prospective subscribers what the new administration would mean to them and urged them to follow the first 100 days. 
The Washington Post also used social as a way to advertise their new publication, The Lily. Targeted towards millennial women, the entity officially launched as its own publication in June 2017 after serving as a section of The Post during the first half of the year. The Lily uses social platforms as a way of distributing their content and driving engagement, so it is fitting that The Post would devote social ad budget to increasing awareness for the new brand.
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Looking Ahead

As time continues, it will be interesting to see how publishers use mid-term elections and other political events to leverage social advertising. The Inauguration and launch of a new administration provided a surge of content for publishers that depend on that flow for continued readership. Perhaps The Washington Post will increase their social presence, or the New York Times may scale back. Time will tell.

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About Author
Jordan Kramer

An out-of-the-box thinker with a love for disruptive ideas, Jordan's background spans PR and events for the wedding & hospitality industry in Los Angeles and Scottsdale and also launching one of America's most unique food trucks. She jumped from the food start-up scene to the tech start-up scene in 2013 to join one of the most unique companies in ad tech. Jordan is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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