Nieman Foundation at Harvard
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Dec. 5, 2008, 10:04 a.m.

More on NYT’s Facebook push

I spoke to Murray Gaylord, vice president of marketing at The New York Times, on Wednesday evening to get more information on his Facebook advertising campaign that seemed so successful. (They more than tripled the fans of the NYT’s Facebook page, and Facebook users sent their friends more than 400,000 free gifts with a fake Times headline, “OBAMA WINS.”) Among other items, he said the Times is considering another ad buy on Facebook around Barack Obama’s inauguration and teased a few social-networking initiatives the newspaper plans to announce “in the next few months.”

My first question for Gaylord was why the Times is interested in Facebook at all. Reactions to my original post about the ad campaign almost universally praised the effort, though Matthew Hoy of the San Diego Union-Tribune likened the Times’ Facebook presence to “the lounge act on the Titanic.” Gaylor said he was hoping to extend the Times’ reputation for dinner-party fodder to the most social space on the web:

The New York Times, part of our DNA is that we begin conversations…. We intuitively knew that Facebook people were going to go to the site the next day and talk about the election, and so we wanted to be there.

He said Facebook “broke all their rules” to run the ad within a tight time frame. The Times prepared three versions of its ad and free gift: one each for an Obama or McCain victory and a third in case the winner wasn’t clear.

Gaylord’s boss, Scott Heekin-Canedy, had said the ad campaign generated “4.3 times the value of our spend,” and I’m still not clear what that means. Gaylord wouldn’t disclose how much was spent, but he said the value was measured in visits to the Times website that were generated by the campaign. (I’m still interesting in how much Facebook charges for this sort of thing; if you’re in a position to know, drop me a line.)

In any event, Gaylord said that in addition to return on investment, he is pushing the notion of, pardon the marketing jargon, “return on engagement.” It’s a blurry idea, but there is clearly some value in the Times’ 185,385 Facebook fans. This is how he sees it:

Are they coming to the site every day? We’d like to think so. We don’t know. But we do know that they are engaging with The New York Times brand. And the fact that they are fans of the brand, we think is important in the long term.

I asked Gaylord if the Times had any additional plans around social media, and he said, “We’ve got some things in the works that we’ll be announcing within the next few months that are pretty interesting, we think.” He wouldn’t elaborate. He did say that the Times said no to participating in the launch of Facebook’s ill-fated Beacon last year, a decision that looks good in retrospect.

Gaylord is a marketing veteran who most recently worked at Yahoo. He likened the Times’ web marketing philosophy to “throwing the spaghetti on the wall.” And this is what he calls his “overriding philosophy”:

We would like people to engage in The New York Times brand. And where and how they’re going to engage in it is, in the new world, out of our control. They’re going come to us however they want — on mobile, on a Kindle, on the iPhone, in the paper, and certainly on the site. And so we’re going to try to be wherever we can be.

POSTED     Dec. 5, 2008, 10:04 a.m.
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