Last September, the New York Post, the nation’s oldest continuously run newspaper and the only one started by a Federalist who was shot and killed in a duel with Aaron Burr, debuted its “Dispatch” section, a native ad division designed to leverage not only the paper’s 14.9 million unique monthly visitors and 500,00+ circulation, but also its distinct, urban crier/pop culture sensibility.
They hired Time Inc. alum Brad Feldman to run the studio, which dips into the Post’s Rolodex for freelancers who are charged with crafting brand-driven content in the voice of the parent paper (headline examples: “Truly Superhuman Feats to Watch During Lunch” and “Wait, Is This a Date?”). Further native offerings will include Real-Time Newsroom and other co-publishing ventures.
We visited Brad recently at the Post Studios bunker, in an office next door to company CEO and Publisher Jesse Angelo.
Content: What is Post Studios responsible for creating?
Brad Feldman: Every day we basically get up and our mission is to tell stories that people want to share. We always say the voice really matters for us because we’re not evergreen content, we’re not service journalists, we’re not how-to’s. We’re a newsroom at heart. We also run a creative shop and we’re doing creative executions. That’s sort of more traditional. We’ll create ads for brands, basically be their creative agency.
New York Post is a publisher first, not an agency, how are you adapting to client needs?
BF: From a new business standpoint, a lot of that is happening at a high level with Jesse (Angelo). We’re getting a lot of meetings and I’ll go on pitches a couple times a week. We’ve reached out to the big ones and we’re looking to build relationships.
Will you be producing any continually published vehicles?
BF: We have a section on the site called Dispatch, which is our viewpoint on content marketing. It’s an ongoing blog. We’re trying to do everything in the voice of The Post. When I first started and we were out there talking about this, I realized a lot of people were talking about content and stories and it was sort of keying me up on “what’s our real point of difference?” Our difference is voice. People want the voice. Twitter is great, but we’ve been writing compelling headlines longer than anyone else. So what we’re now doing is we’re allowing brands to tap into the magic behind what we do.
What brands have you worked with so far?
BF: We’ve done work for brands like Bloomingdales, Fox and CW—a lot in the entertainment space and a lot of it’s been native ads. We’re having conversations every day with brands but we’ve only scratched the surface.
By virtue of where you guys are seated in the office, so close to [New York Post CEO and Publisher] Jesse Angelo, it gives some sense of the importance of this initiative.
BF: Yeah. I report right in to Jesse. Jesse wanted a creative group that even made our editors jealous. I think he thinks this is the future of our business.
“Dispatch” is The New York Post’s native advertising silo »
What is Real-Time Newsroom?
BF: We’ll actually set up newsrooms for brands. That works in a few different ways. A brand wants to capture the real-time moment and we say we’re going to manage different channels.
Or it’s us assigning managing editors to a brand that says “I want you to write about innovation, technology, etc…” and we do a daily story list. Demand will actually inform how big we get. And if we do enough of those we may have to freelance those out but it will all be within our network of journalists.
Is part of your mandate to actually sell this into clients and brands?
BF: Yeah. I just got out of a Microsoft meeting where we were talking about the real-time newsroom. So, yes, we go and talk about that a lot. And there’s a couple of ways we can do it, which is actually using The Post voice, or we can white label and sort of be behind the curtain and people don’t need to know it’s from The Post but you’re tapping into The Post sensibility.
What kind of goals have you set?
BF: I don’t want to put monetary goals on it. I think the types of requests that I’m seeing have already made it as a success. The people, agencies and brands know about us and say, “OK, I’ve got a project I want to happen,” and they bring it to Post studios. We really want, more than anything, to be a resource that we know that brands creating content will want to say, “Look, I’ve got a project; this event’s come up we want you to cover it” or “I want you to create this piece of content for us because you’ve got a certain sensibility.”
How are people hearing about Post Studios?
BF: We ran some trade campaigns very early on, but it’s really us going on the sales calls with the sales team and telling them about it, and Jesse’s setting up a lot of high level meetings and just going and telling the story.
How do you define good branded content, good native advertising?
BF: To me it comes down to the story. To me, we really shouldn’t use the word branded or native because it should serve the purpose of story first. The whole reason why it was created was because brands wanted to tell stories, they wanted it to behave like editorial. So, does it have the traditional tempo of great storytelling: Is there a central character? Is there drama? Is there conflict? Is there resolution? Is there something to root for? If it’s a great story, to me it really doesn’t matter who it’s coming from, as long as it behaves that way.
Talk to us about the reception you’re getting from agencies. Are they hungry for business content, entertainment content? BF: Yeah. It all depends on the category. We also want to stay true to what we do. I think pop culture, I think entertainment, things that are in our wheelhouse.
“Twitter is great, but we’ve been writing compelling headlines longer than anyone else.”
What’s the 2014 rollout going to look like?
BF: It’s Dispatch, which is our native offering, the Real-Time Newsroom, and then this Originals idea, which is us actually taking content out to market, which is a few special story-driven ideas that are big integrated concepts.
One is a program called Blockumentaries. It’s a series of short films that tell the stories behind city blocks, and how basically cultural history can inform one block. Like Tin Pan Alley, or 42nd and Broadway, and then it would be narrated by famous people and, again, this would be something that’s co-sponsored.
We have another one called One More Night an event-based program. There’s all these amazing music venues in New York that are now defunct, and the idea is that we’re going to resurrect them for one more night and have modern day bands pay tribute to the bands that made those venues famous. But also tell the story behind those venues… roadies, bartenders, musicians, all the untold stuff that happened there.
You’re creating a lot of ways that brands can engage with stories. Do people want to buy into the social channels of the Post?
BF: Yeah, sometimes. More often, they distribute this stuff on their owned social channels or we can drive eyeballs to it. We don’t want to exist in a vacuum.
How important are KPIs in selling the stuff in and justifying at the end?
BF: They’re important but they’re hard to define. If you’re buying into the idea of telling stories and content, then you know it’s not the traditional content KPIs. It may not immediately increase sales but it will enhance brand perception, it will get hand-raisers, it will get people talking about your brand. And I think that people who understand that currently trust that this is the right way to go.