NPR’s new website, launched this week, contained a significant addition: “Center Stage,” its new ad module. For one full day per week, NPR promises to give a sponsor prime real estate halfway down the homepage in a custom-built 1070 pixels by 380 pixels ad, according to Digiday. The first advertiser signed on is Squarespace.
This design change wasn’t just made to alleviate the problems of banner ads, one of which is that more than half do not appear. Center Stage will also address some issues NPR’s encountered as programmatic advertising popularizes. For instance, the FCC prohibits certain types of ads, such as those promoting based on price or on sweepstakes. And with the rise of automated advertising sales, it’s become increasingly difficult for NPR to convince brands to modify their ads to meet these guidelines, Digiday reported.
“The banner business is getting difficult because everything is moving to programmatic,” Bryan Moffett, vice president of digital strategy and ad operations at National Public Media, told Digiday. “There’s not a chance to get the advertiser to change the banner for you. They’re not willing to do the work to make it happen.”
Unlike some other publications, NPR won’t produce the sponsored content for Center Stage. But the module will allow for long-form content, specifically videos that exceed one minute. Moffett told Digiday the units sell for $50,000, and he expects each will get about 2 million views per day.
“What we’re trying to do is make something more noticeable, which for us means more interesting,” he said.
The New York Times’ Idea Lab, which was assembled to innovate advertising at the newspaper, is also working to incorporate custom-built ads. In The Times’ newest immersive, multimedia piece, “The Jockey,” the team prepared four weeks in advance to make advertisements more seamless than they were for “Snow Fall,” Ad Age reported.
With “Snow Fall,” banner ads between paragraphs obstructed the reading experience (see photo, left). But with “The Jockey,” a BMW logo follows readers throughout the story, and ads pop up at the end of each chapter (photo, right).
“This time, we learned from our mistakes,” Tracy Quitasol, executive director of Idea Lab, told Ad Age.
The Times shopped around for a sponsor who was willing to sign on without knowledge of when the article would be published, what it would look like and how its ads would appear. BMW made the purchase with knowledge only of the topic.
“It’s brave and shows a trust for our brand,” Quitasol said.
The Times did not discuss the price of the ad package, but, based on the success of “Snow Fall,” the piece may likely go viral and boost BMW’s visibility. Ad Age noted that “Snow Fall” got 3.5 million page views in just a few days.
As The Times has another “special project” on the way, Quitasol said that “the goal is to make this more repeatable.”