"We knew that when people clicked on those links shared by brands and come back to our site, they would see whatever advertising was running on the page," he says. "It could have been from the brand's competitor, it could have been from a totally different category, and so Ricochet was a product that we set up to correct that problem and in the process give the brands a whole new way to use our content and our environment to communicate with their customers."
The Times' launch partner, SAP, illustrates well the type of company likely to appreciate Ricochet. With what Zimbalist calls a "well-developed global content strategy," SAP does extensive social media management and has established itself as a trusted source of information for its followers. Organizations such as SAP "often fill their content pipeline with media they create, but our product allows them to supplement their owned media strategy with professionally produced high-quality content from The New York Times Company," he says. "It actually makes their own content that they are releasing to these channels—whether it's produced by the brand or not—gain value."
The Times Company hopes to automate the service in the future by allowing customers to search content archives and select the content they want to use in Ricochet. Customers buy access to the custom link for a set period of time, during which they can share it across any of their owned media channels. This can include buys of up to a year, allowing advertisers to include links in packaging, limited edition products, videos or TV commercials.
Ricochet and Cascade were developed by the New York Times Company's Research & Development lab. Responding to those who say publishers should not be technologists, Zimbalist says they are good strategic investments.