NYTimes.com Thinks Online Advertising Is Ready for Prime Time

Following up on the success of last year's Surround Sessions online advertising concept, where site visitors receive ads from a single advertiser for the entire duration of their stay, the New York Times' Web site, NYTimes.com, recently launched the "Site Sessions" advertising format, which brings timeslot-based ad sessions to the Internet.

Site Sessions allows NYTimes.com to feature a single advertiser in exclusive placements across its major ad positions for a specific period of time, similar to the "dayparts" format used in advertising for radio and television. NYTimes.com contends that the ability to purchase specific, desirable times during the workday allows advertisers to reach their target audiences online at specific times of day, when they may be making purchasing decisions. According to a recent study undertaken by the Online Publishing Association and Millward Brown IntelliQuest, the Internet dominates daytime media use in the same way that television dominates evenings, and daytime is "prime time" on the Internet. NYTimes.com promotes that its latest creation stands apart from other online advertising models as it provides advertisers with a significant target market. The first of its advertisers to take part in Site Sessions, American Airlines, will appear from 9 a.m. EST to 10 a.m., Monday through Wednesday.

According to Jason R. Krebs, NYTimes.com's vice president of advertising, "What is unique about Site Sessions is NYTimes.com combined the "daypart" concept with targeting that is made possible by our registration system on NYTimes.com. As a result," he says, "our users in different time zones across the U.S. viewed the American Airlines ads at 9-10 am their time."

So far, only a few sites like CBS' MarketWatch have experimented with time-of-day based ad delivery. While the format has not yet been widely adopted by Web sites, it offers a certain allure—due to its similarity to the popular television format—as they hope to appeal to deep-pocketed advertisers that traditionally spend most of their media budgets on television and radio.

And according to most analysts, the online advertising industry is on the rise: At least half a dozen research firms predict that industry revenues for 2002 will spike anywhere between 9 and 44 percent. It's a dramatic reversal, even by fast-moving Internet standards. Just last year, online ad spending fell nearly 11%, from $8. billion in 2000 to $7.3 billion in 2001, according to New York-based research firm eMarketer. With advertising offerings like Site Sessions and Surround Sessions, NYTimes.com hopes to cash in on this online ad comeback.

Krebs says, "We can't predict revenues at this point, but we hope to have the rapid adoption rate, by similar traditional advertisers, that we had with Surround Sessions." Since Surround Sessions launched in November 2001, 15 formidable advertisers including Saab, Miramax, FedEx, Fleet, HP, the Economist, and American Airlines have used the service on NYTimes. com and their sister site Boston.com.

As for Site Sessions, its official launch was June 3. And if it's successful in signing more clients to the new format, the development would seem to signal offline advertisers' willingness to view Internet media the way they traditionally have been broadcast.

For now, at least one advertiser is enthusiastic about the venture. Due to the positive results from its Surround Sessions campaign, American Airlines decided to be the first advertiser to adopt Site Sessions.

James Hering, director of interactive marketing for American's ad agency, Temerlin McClain, has been very pleased with the results from the company's Surround Sessions campaign and is enthusiastic about the future of Site Sessions. He believes that the ability to reach NYTimes.com readers as they begin their workday by checking the top news is key. He says, "We've had very good success advertising on NYTimes.com in terms of tracked activity on AA.com, and believe that Site Sessions will help us keep building awareness."