Here's a great example of how convoluted the media ecosystem has become: if you visit NYTimes.com today, you'll notice that upstart Vice News has taken over the masthead ad position. I check NYTimes.com every day and this is the first time I've noticed the Vice News ad though it's possible it has run previously. Vice News positions itself as "an international news organization created by and for a connected generation" and still carries a "beta" label.
The ad itself runs a series of protest scenes from what looks like Ukraine, with periodic statements interspersed like "You go to both sides of the front line," "Look beyond the headlines," "Follow the story wherever it leads" and "Don't just watch the news." Clicking "Watch Now" starts a loop with similar scenes and statements. There is a click through to the Vice News site on YouTube and ability to subscribe (the counter shows 588,220 subscribers so far).
So here we have a situation where an online video centric news startup targeting millennials is advertising on the most preeminent newspaper's web site. In a sense, it's a smart move by Vice News to target news junkies who are most likely to be interested and willing to experiment and engage (particularly since the Vice News YouTube channel is free to view).
The ad strategy also shows how quickly the media world continues to evolve, fueled by online video and social media. Ironically, just yesterday, the NY Times media reporter David Carr wrote about how social media is bringing the horrors of war directly to users in real time. While noting that some established media have reduced their coverage, the two new players Carr called out as leading the real-time charge? Vice and BuzzFeed.
And so it goes - new technologies, new business models, new user expectations, all combining to challenge established media practices while opening up new opportunities for disruptors. With their success, the disruptors like Vice News use their resources to advertise for more users on establishment sites like NYTimes.com itself. One final twist - numerous big media companies are looking to acquire Vice, all no doubt seeking to harness its disruptive DNA.