Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Matt Lester.
Most of us are well aware of the challenges facing print media companies in this digital age. Even the venerable New York Times has not been exempt from modern ailments, such as continued lowering of ad revenue and the dips in overall revenue. Originally the New York Daily Times, the ‘Gray Lady’ has been around since 1851 and racked up a record 119 Pulitzer Prizes. Having published daily on the web since 1996, the NYT did not develop a digital pay model until 2011.
Sunday evening the NYT aired a commercial for the first time. It was shown during the Oscars as part of their efforts to solidify and grow a subscription-first business model. So far, the model is working to the tune of 3 million paid subscribers and over a quarter of a million new digital subscribers.
Their new ad campaign is a timely, provocative dissertation on one of the most surprisingly controversial words in our language… truth. They state; “the truth has no alternative, the truth is hard, the truth is more important now than ever”. Very poignant and effective, given Trump’s distain for the efforts of the press to expose the non-stop flow of the Donald’s and this administration’s lies. Particularly so, given Trump’s targeted accusations toward the NYT as one of a group of enemies of the state.
This is certainly not the first attack on the NYT by a sitting president. President Richard Nixon took the NYT to court in 1972 following publication of the Pentagon Papers, a secretly “leaked” detailed account of the United States’ military often illegal involvement in the Vietnam War from as far back as the 40’s through the late 60’s. The state department’s Daniel Ellsberg chose the NYT’s Neil Sheehan to expose the papers to the public. Nixon blew a sweaty fuse and singled him out to his then national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, saying, “People have gotta’ be put to the torch for this sort of thing…” and “Let’s get the son-of-a-bitch in jail.” The federal court injunction was appealed by the NYT. As it was being pushed through the courts, the Washington Post was pulled into the case when it published its own versions of Ellsberg’s papers. The courts eventually deemed the case unconstitutional and we all know what next awaited Nixon’s fate.
As marketing professionals, we talk a lot about the import of brands having purpose. NYT founder, Henry Raymond had a very clear purpose with which he launched the very first issue:
“We shall be Conservative, in all cases where we think Conservatism essential to the public good — and we shall be Radical in everything which may seem to us to require radical treatment and radical reform.”
The execution is brilliant in its simplicity. The white page and changing copy, designed to mimic the esthetic of the brand while considering the moving medium is particularly engaging to the brand’s core audience- intelligent people who hunger for well written stories that are based on the truth and an examination of the facts. Backed by a month of broadcast, print, digital and social media, I believe this will be a very effective effort.
Our longest serving New York Senator, Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
I’ve believed in Patrick’s words my entire adult life. I hope we all find strength in the NYT ad because those words are, indeed, more important now than ever. The New York Times was founded with a purpose and I’m sure their audience will be very glad to see they are sticking to it after all these years.