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New numbers: Native advertising created massive traffic for New York Times

What happened was, we were doing some research, when we fell upon this press release on Business Wire. It's basically a study on the traffic generated by sponsored articles on The study, conducted by The New York Times and web analytics company Chartbeat in 2014, includes some pretty interesting numbers. The following passage caught our attention:

During the study period, at least five Paid Posts placed above NYT 10K (i.e. among the top 5,000 editorial articles on and one Paid Post, “Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work,” from Netflix, was among the top 1,000 traffic articles on during the same period.

Alriiiiight! Wooooooo! Top 5,000! Top 1,000! Yeah! Soooo impressive...Or, well, is it?  We couldn't really tell. Being placed in the top 3 of something is usually impressive. Top 10 is good as well. Top 100 is dicey, but who knows? Top 1,000 and top 5,000, however, doesn't sound like something you would brag about.

So we contacted the New York Times and asked for some perspective on the entire top 1,000/5,000-thing. This is the reply we got from director of corporate communications, Linda Zebian.

It's difficult to determine how many articles were published during that time period, however, we publish approximately, on average, 200 articles a day.
The study period was approximately 341 days, which would put us at upwards of 68,000 articles (that does not necessarily include graphics, slideshows and videos).
So, if 'Women Inmates' was in the top 1,000-trafficked articles during the study period, we can loosely suggest that the Netflix Paid Post was in the top 1.47% of articles published during that time period.

Well, we'll be damned. A piece of native advertising, albeit an incredibly well executed one, among the top 1,47 pct. of trafficked articles during a 341-day stretch on, when more than 68,000 editorial articles were published?

Considering all the speculation and talk that native advertising is unable to engage with the users, this seems like a significant statistical discovery.

Now, there is a difference between generating traffic and being liked by the users. Many people share and engage with content for the very reason that they don't like it. However, when 'Women Inmates' was published back in 2014, it was the general reaction that this was a well-researched piece of writing concerning a siginificant issue. Regardless of origination.

These numbers seem to prove it.


Anders Vinderslev is a trained journalist and former editor and key contributor to the NAI blog. He has, according to himself, produced some of the most thought-provoking and impactful reporting on the state of native advertising. Today he works as a content creator and editor at Brand Movers, but from time to time he will deliver spicy takes on native advertising and sponsored content here at the NAI blog.

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