2014 Digital NewFronts: Firsthand Report From the Frontline

Michelle Castillo is the Digital Media Reporter for Adweek. However, for the past week-and-a-half, she’s been more of a war correspondent covering the 2014 Digital Content NewFronts. At last count, she had written 18 stories about the NewFronts between Sunday, April 27 and Monday, May 5, 2014. I caught up with her on Monday just as the nine-day-long series of events was entering its second week and asked her for a firsthand report from the trenches.

Greg Jarboe: Before I get to the gory details of what you’ve seen, heard, and reported, let me ask this question: What’s the biggest new trend that you’ve spotted this year?

Michelle Castillo: I wouldn’t say it’s a new trend, but this year people really emphasized that their web shows were being rated by comScore or Nielsen (or both). Having standardized metrics are believed to be one way to get into TV ad budgets. With the rise of premium content, you can be sure publishers want interested brands to pay top dollar.

Greg Jarboe: On Monday, April 28, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Microsoft, and Yahoo! had NewsFront events. What was the most significant announcement on the first day?

Michelle Castillo: Microsoft really stepped up the game with its new Xbox shows and interactive features. Most notable is the new Halo series, produced by Steven Spielberg. We didn’t see any previews of the show yet, but fans are sure to tune in since it is based on the hit video game. I’m also excited to check out Extraordinary Believers, which is from the creators of Cartoon Network’s Robot Chicken. It also partnered with concert festival Bonnarroo. Big moves in the digital space for the tech company.


Greg Jarboe: On Tuesday, April 29, Glam Media. Conde Nast Entertainment, and AOL had NewsFront events? Who wins the prize for the second day of the week?

Michelle Castillo: Tuesday was a huge day! AOL wins since its announced 16 new web series, most of which featured celebrity talent. Steve Buscemi, James Franco and Mike Epps all have new shows on the online network. It’s also doing its first 30-minute show, Connected, which is based on an Israeli documentary series. It took a lot of convincing to get people to go to Brooklyn for a NewFront, but the company delivered with a lot of new announcements.

Glam is a close second, since it changed its name to Mode Media and will be unveiling a Netflix competitor for streaming video. It’s an interesting move for the formerly female focused company, so I’m curious to see how expanding to all lifestyle coverage for both men and women will pan out.

Greg Jarboe: On Wednesday, April 30, Hulu, Crackle, Scripps Networks, and Google had NewsFront events. Who topped the charts for the third day of the week?

Michelle Castillo: As much as I loved the idea of the Hulu’s Pizza Hut ad (you can click on an ad and order a pizza while watching your favorite show!), I have to give it to YouTube. YouTube unveiled Google Preferred, which allows brands to advertise on the top 5 percent of its videos. It also set the gold standard for NewFront’s presentations by having both Pharell and Janelle Monae perform.

google digital newfronts

Greg Jarboe: On Thursday, May 1, Time Inc., DigitasLBi, and PopSugar held NewsFront events. Who was king of the hill for the fourth day of the week?

Michelle Castillo: DigitasLBi has been snapping up things left and right all of last week, so I’d have to give it to the digital agency. Prior to its NewFront, it announced that it was the first digital agency partner of Google Preferred. It also bought AOL’s My Hero, which is from executive producer Zoe Saldana.

At its lengthy NewFront, DigitasLBi also announced an in-house partnership with BuzzFeed and an exclusive partnership with production company Epic Digital. DigitasLBi also teamed up with SimpleReach to create comparable metrics called the NewFronts Brand Context index to help marketers know if their ads were doing well across the Web sphere.

Greg Jarboe: On Friday, May 2, The Wall Street Journal, Time Warner Cable Media, VICE, and Endemol Beyond held NewsFront events. Who had the top story for the fifth day of the week?

Michelle Castillo: Friday was a pretty slow day I have to admit. VICE might take the cake because so many advertisers were interested in the brand that it had to split its NewFront into two presentations (albeit the second presentation was very empty.) The millennial hub launched a host of new web series for its Munchies (Food vertical) and Vice News portals and will unveil a new sports vertical later this year.

Greg Jarboe: The NewFronts continue this week with PBS Studios and VEVO holding events on Monday as well as National Geographic and Maker holding events on Tuesday. Any predictions on who will walk off with the trophy for the second week?

Michelle Castillo: My money is on Maker since it was just bought by Disney. That could mean any sort of partnerships with existing Disney brands or a new foray onto the Web sphere for the entertainment conglomerate.

2014 Digital Content NewFronts