In the spring of 2013, amid great fanfare, New York City launched its Citi Bike programme. Operated by NYC Bike Share, Citi Bike is the largest bike-sharing programme in the United States.

This auspicious occasion provided The New York Times with a unique marketing opportunity to create an innovative marketing solution that benefited Times readers, NYC Bike Share, and Citi.

Citi and The New York Times collaborated on a never-been-done-before branding opportunity integrally incorporated into the user experience of The Scoop, a mobile application from The New York Times that aggregates and recommends “the best of New York.” 

The Citi Bike sponsorship of The Scoop app provided additional value to users and offered Citi an effective, editorially integrated branding opportunity — all while promoting a programme that promises to reduce emissions, road wear, collisions, road and transit congestion, and improve public health. 

As part of its broader relationship with Citi, The New York Times developed a custom Citi Bike tile that allowed users to browse editor-recommendation destinations throughout New York City, and then discover the location and availability at Citi Bike stations nearby.

On May 28, 2013, The New York Times updated The Scoop with a Citi Bike section. When users opened the updated app, they saw a main menu with an additional icon for Citi Bike. When users tapped on the icon, they saw a map showing data from the Citi Bike app, specifically nearby Citi Bike locations and the current number of bikes and docks. 

The map also displayed the location of Times editorial picks for the best restaurants and coffee shops. Users were able to zoom into their location to see the nearest bike stations and Scoop picks and get information on the number of bikes and docks available at each station, updated every minute.

They could also get bike-friendly directions from their current location to a Citi Bike station or a Scoop pick. 

This marked the first time that The New York Times featured content from an advertiser in a mobile application outside of an advertising unit. It offered Citi a unique and custom campaign to help it tell its brand story in an innovative way. 

This native advertising solution was widely covered by trade media press, including Adweek, TechCrunch, and The Observer. TechCrunch wrote: “With today’s update to its iPhone app The Scoop, The New York Times may have accomplished something that advertisers and publishers often boast about but rarely achieve — it may have found a genuinely useful way to incorporate sponsored content.”

The Citi Bike Scoop app has proven a highly effective prototype for how The New York Times can create customised mobile-branded content, which is becoming increasingly important to our users and our advertisers.