The New York Times launches new first-party tool to help advertisers navigate brand safety concerns

The New York Times rolled out a new ad insights program this week called “Pivotal,” which provides research and recommendations on how brands can navigate sensitive issues, per Axios.

The new program, which uses first-party data collected from the publisher’s 6.5 million subscribers, was originally expected to launch earlier this year but was delayed due to the pandemic. While the news industry has seen a significant increase in readership and subscriptions during the pandemic, there has also been a substantial drop in ad sales: Our estimates show that US digital newspaper ad spending will fall 8.4% this year to $4.11 billion.

The Times’ Pivotal is one publisher’s attempt to allay brand safety concerns. News cycles focused on the coronavirus, civic unrest, and US presidential election have been sources of concern for marketers wary of advertising alongside polarizing topics, despite these events leading to spikes in news consumption.

According to a July survey from OpenX and The Harris Poll, 40% of marketers took proactive measures against placements alongside coronavirus-related content. The Times hopes that by engaging directly with advertisers on these issues through insights derived from its own audience, it can alleviate some of these concerns.

This approach may prove worthwhile—according to the same survey, 85% of marketers feel there is a way for them to capitalize on the increase in news consumption, while 68% have altered their company’s advertising strategy in response to the increase in news consumption.

This program is another example of publishers expanding the use of the first-party data to appeal to advertisers amid the impending loss of third-party cookies. Since Google announced it would be removing third-party cookies from Chrome, advertisers and sellers have been scrambling to find alternative ways of tracking and segmenting digital traffic.

For many publishers, this has meant that the value of the data they can collect directly from their readers has grown, which in turn has sparked a wave of new first-party offerings: In just the past month, companies like Vox Media and Group Nine Media have launched new advertising products that incorporate their first-party data.

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