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NYTimes.com Readies Behavior-Targeted Ads

Officials at the New York Times Digital (NYTD) said it plans to roll out a new premium ad-targeting tool this month that will allow advertisers to pinpoint ads to users based on their prior behavior on the site.

The new ad tool, called "wide-angle targeting," will allow advertisers in popular verticals, such as travel and technology, to serve ads to users that have visited sections of NYTimes.com related to their vertical, according to Craig Calder, NYTD's vice president of marketing.

"It's a very breakthrough idea because it offers some real possibility for advertisers to extend their message outside the section but still reach a targeted audience," Calder said.

As an example, since the travel section is a popular category for advertisers, NYTD will often sell out ads targeted there. However, the visitors to the travel pages can be identified through wide-angle targeting, creating many more opportunities for advertisers to reach them on other sections of the site.

It will also create more opportunities for NYTD to move some of its lower-priced run-of-site inventory into a middle-tier premium offering. Right now, about 60 percent of ads are run-of-site.

To implement the wide-angle targeting, NYTD is using marketing software from now-defunct Personify to divide users into segments based on their interaction with the site. NYTD has identified a handful of segments initially: automotive, business, fashion, health and technology. A NYTimes.com user joins a segment after visiting five or more pages in a section during a month's time.

The wide-angle targeted ads will begin later this month with a test campaign for a company in the health segment. Calder declined to name the company running the campaign.

NYTD offers a variety of targeted ad formats. The site was one of the first to require users to register and provide demographic information that can be used to tailor the advertising they see. In October 2001, NYTD launched "surround sessions" campaigns that allow a single advertiser to follow a user around the site with its ads. The company has also dabbled in dayparts, selling ads pegged to the time of day. NYTD and another of publishers have trumpeted the Internet's strength as the most effective media for reaching consumers during work hours.

In another bonus for advertisers, NYTD plans a half-page ad format in April to roll out with its site redesign, which will feature a new page layout and navigation. The new unit, which will occupy the right half of the page, is meant to make the Web user experience similar to that of reading a magazine, while giving the advertiser a larger creative palette, Calder said.

The site has not worked out all the details of the half-page ads, but Calder said they could theoretically run on all article pages on the site. Boston.com, another NYTD site, will also debut the format in April.

"Our goal with all of these innovations has been to allow advertisers a more effective way of reaching their target audience," he said. "If we continue to push the envelope and provide better and more effective ways for advertisers to reach our audience, we're always going to be ahead."

So far, the approach appears to be working. Last week, The New York Times Co. reported its online unit saw revenues grow to $19.7 million, an 18.5 percent increase compared to the same period last year, thanks to improved advertising results. NYTD contributed $3.3 million in operating profit for the quarter and $8.3 million for the year.