Representatives of the New York Times and Washington Post vowed to 300 at the Arthur W. Page spring seminar yesterday that running “branded content” (advertorials) will not compromise their mission.

Katharine Graham Weymouth, publisher and CEO of the Washington Post, said the paper will not “blur the line” between editorial and advertising. “

Washington Post publisher and CEO Katherine Graham Weymouth speaks with Burson-Marsteller CEO Don Baer at the Page Society event.                                            Photos: Sharlene Spingler

She said what the paper offers is a “platform for storytelling” by companies that want to use “native advertising” in the paper.

“We label it,” she said, referring to branded content it carried for the Cleveland Clinic. She was interviewed by Don Baer, worldwide chair and CEO, Burson-Marsteller. The meeting, which continues today in New York, took place at the Conrad hotel.

Weymouth, whose topic was “The Future of Journalism,” said the newspaper industry is still doing “a lot of hand-wringing” about itself and said it should stop being “so obsessive about our demise.”

“Stop moaning and groaning, we will be around a long time,” she added.

She had high praise for Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, who purchased the paper last year. He was the ideal purchaser, she said, because he is “full of ideas” and is “bringing something to the table.” He wants build and experiment and “focus on consumers,” she said.

Weymouth noted that stories of reporters are being tracked by the number of clicks they generate which gives the Post guidance on what stories to focus on. There has to be a “balance between what is important and what is fun,” she said.

NYT Vows No Hit to Independence

Meredith Kopit Levien, NYT executive VP of advertising, said the paper is carrying branded content by Dell and Cartier but that, “We are not in any way compromising our editorial independence.”

David Roth, executive editor, LinkedIn; Meredith Kopit Levien, EVP of advertising, New York Times; Jay Lauf, SVP, Atlantic Media, publisher, Quartz, and Susan Gilchrist, group chief executive, Brunswick.

She disputed the opinion of some that “native advertising will mean the end of consumer trust in journalism.”

Jean-Marie Dru, chairman of TBWAWorldwide, described the firm’s longtime campaign of introducing the concept of “disruption” to the business and ad worlds.

Author Warren Berger interviews TBWAWorldwide chairman Jean-Marie Dru.

By this he means that companies have to “create disorder in an orderly manner”—give up previous ways of doing things and embrace change.

He asked: “Does your system get smarter each day? How fast do you learn? How fast does your product get smarter?”

Companies have to move as fast as the world around them, he said. 

Dru’s book, Jet Lag, was for sale at the conference. A passage says: “Disruption is connected with the notion of discontinuity. It rejects gradual change, rejects marginal improvements, rejects ‘incrementalism.” 

Aaron Dignan, CEO of digital consulting firm Undercurrent

Other speakers on the program included Dan Roth, executive editor of LinkIn; Jay Lauf, SVP, Atlantic Media and publisher of Quartz, and Susan Feldman, co-founder of One Kings Lane. All speakers spoke extemporaneously. No texts were provided.