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“Big tech is watching you. Who’s watching big tech?” The Markup is finally ready for liftoff
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May 2, 2011, 1:30 p.m.

Coming soon to a theater near you: The New York Times

The New York Times just announced a new initiative: The paper is teaming up with the theater network Emerging Pictures to produce “Times in Cinema,” a branded preshow tailored for independent theatrical venues. Times in Cinema — a ten- to twelve-minute-long affair that will run prior to the trailers at movie showings — will screen original, high-definition videos produced by the Times. (The paper, overall, currently creates more than 100 original videos per month.)

The show will also, yep, be used as a platform for selling advertising.

It’s a smart move: captive audience + art house audience + audience sick of being served up trivia questions about George Clooney as it waits for movie trailers to start = an audience that may be more receptive to brand messaging than a print or digital audience alone. When it comes to news consumption on traditional news platforms — the print product, the web, even the smartphone and iPad — we users have gotten pretty good at ignoring commercial content. When the screen you’re looking at is several hundred times the size of a PC, though, ads become several hundred times harder to ignore. Engagement is almost implicit.

And art houses house precisely the kind of audiences the Times wants to serve ads to. As Yasmin Namini, the Times’ senior VP for marketing and circulation, put it in a press release: “The New York Times attracts an educated, discerning audience that overlaps strongly with the art house audience. Times in Cinema allows us to leverage The Times’s incredible wealth of high-quality videos and create a unique, engaging brand experience to reach theatergoers in a relevant environment.”

Theatergoers, importantly, who might not also be Times readers. As consumers, they’ve opted in to a cultural experience; the news experience — and the branded Times experience — is layered on top of that, separate but also integrated. Though Pathé News 2.0 this is not — Times in Cinema’s videos will focus primarily on entertainment, travel, and lifestyles stories — the move has a definite back-to-the-future sensibility to it, reminiscent of those pre-movie newsreels so popular in the ’30s and ’40s. And, most importantly, it could be yet another ad platform — and, thus, revenue stream — for the Times, one that looks beyond traditional methods of distribution to deliver branded content — even to people who haven’t actually sought that content. In a world (er, IN A WORLD…) where news organizations need to think creatively about new ways to surprise and intrigue and otherwise engage us, the cinema screen could be just the ticket.

Image by David Gallagher used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     May 2, 2011, 1:30 p.m.
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